02 May 2009

The Limits of Control

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+

Watch the trailer:


Anonymous said...

So is this supposed to be "good criticism"? very funny. just admit that you are not bright or sensitive enough to understand LoC & leave it at that. maybe in a few years, when you've learned how to write film reviews LoC will make sense to you. Good luck with your hobby.

Anonymous said...

Great pan. Jarmusch's interview in The Onion pretty much suggested that this film would be problematic, mainly by admitting that the film... had... no... script. I'd say that's an issue.


H. Stewart said...

@Stickler: It's not so much the lack of a solid script (because there's, well, something there...) it's the tone, the smug "look how cool I am" attitude that pervades nearly every moment of the movie.

@Anonymous: thanks for the well wishes!

Anonymous said...

your forgetting to mention that Jarmusch is WAY too cool for you.

go rent Juno... stick to what you know.

sugarbiscuit said...

Reading the review coupled with watching the trailer gave me the eerie sensation Hal Hartley was in the room.

And hey, anonymous, you pathetic scold, what's your problem? Are you a producer for this movie or something? Calm down and don't take thoughtful criticism of a beloved icon so personally. In other words, grow up.

Anonymous said...

Most enjoyable film I've seen in years. Went back the next night to see it again.
I think the problem for the reviewer is that it doesn't really have an emotional key. This means it is not [=doesn't pretend to be] 'real'. But since when do movies have to be real? One advantage is you don't leave thinking you have been subject to emotional manipulation as in 99% of mainstream and 66% of indie films.
It doesn't hark back to 90s cool (of which I don't remember any apart from perhaps KC) but Euro 60s.
Storytelling is great, we couldn't get by without it. But it's nice to try something else for a change - beauty for its own sake?
Channelling Hal Hartley - well maybe a little but much more Hitchcock, Lynch, Antonioni (the Passenger eg) and as the NYT has it, the Goddard of Contempt.
So if you just want to watch and wonder withouth your heart strings being pulled; give it a go.
Another Bridge