Written & Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Full credits from IMDb
Any lingering hopes that Jim Jarmusch could be as relevant or vital a filmmaker as he was back in his Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law days are easily dispelled by the disastrous The Limits of Control. An exercise in pseudo-stylishness, the interminable movie finds Jarmusch clinging to a faded notion of what constitutes cool, to an ideal of hip that smacks distastefully of the ‘90s—back when this brand of indie-pretentious, faux-mystical hitman shit could pass muster.
Isaach De Bankolé stars as Lone Man (an archetypal Man with No Name), a stoic international man of mystery (some kind of diamond-fencing assassin?) who spends his days visiting museums with future-predicting paintings and traipsing the streets in slo-mo, to the languorous clangors of a cruising noise-rock score. He also spots cryptic symbols strewn across Spain that signal he is to meet-up—usually in a café where he insists on two espressos in separate cups (cool, right?)—to exchange matchbooks with a stream of cohorts (including John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal and Tilda Swinton, done up like a Warhol doll); each offers an earful of phony wisdom and pretentious aphorisms on the house. Bankolé is like a ghost(-dog?) shuffled between insufferable spirit guides.
The conceit seems like an excuse for Jarmusch to parade his favorite working actors by the camera; their monologues—Bankolé rarely speaks—smack of things you might write in a diary and be embarrassed by later, but Jarmusch fancies that they’re worthy of providing the backbone for a script: “the best films are like dreams you’re never sure you’ve had,” “I believe that musical instruments, especially those made of wood, resonate with every note they’ve ever played,” “sometimes for me the reflection is far more present than the thing being reflected.” (Sounds like somebody’s so cool he’s even into Eastern philosophy.) Everybody speaks in a soft, slow monotone, delivering affectless readings dripping with alienated emotionlessness. The film’s dispassionate repetitiousness is meant to be trance inducing, I imagine, but it is instead, at turns, noisome and soporific. The Limits of Control makes a few points: that “life is a handful of dirt,” that reality is arbitrary, that everything is subjective. In short, it’s pointless. Grade: D+
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