Limits of Control Movie Reviews

Limits of Control

Limits of Control

Release Date: May 01, 2009

Genre: Drama

Rating: (R)

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    Jim Jarmusch begins his new film The Limits of Control with this quote from The Drunken Boat by Rimbaud
    As I was floating down unconcerned Rivers
    I no longer felt myself steered by the haulers
    And so it is in Jarmusch’s film. We will slowly drift through this story of a secret agent, played by the ultra cool Isaach De Bankolé as he goes on an undefined mission in very specific places with an indefinite sense of urgency. He encounters a series of indeterminate characters played by Tilda Swinton, Gael García Bernal, John Hurt, Paz de la Huerta and the big bad guy, Bill Murray. Directors and perhaps even stories themselves are what mediate and guide an audience through a film - finally providing some kind of catharsis. There’s no such guidance here. It is a collection of unhurried unfolding, seemingly important details that lead to the unsettling fact that you will, in the end, have to put together your own damn story.
    As I understand reader-response theory, it is the reader (or viewer) who is the one who causes art to exist, that it is the audience interpretation that gives life to the work of art. That seems to explain the Limits of Control as much as any anything. Jarmusch has artfully employed all the elements of genre, plot, character, event, symbolism, and even climax - just not in a way that leaves the audience in the same place about what has happened. He attends masterfully to important movie moments like lingering on beautiful stars and beautiful spaces. He dwells on De Bankolé’s face as a work of art. He catches the ambience of the Madrid’s architecture, cafes, museums, and streets. He explores the exact light of Spanish mornings and afternoons. It reminds me at times of Antonioni’s The Passenger, but with even less of a narrative thrust. Narrative clues abound, but they are less clues than random genre situations, and you make what you can of them. I don’t want to spoil the pleasure of the slowly and randomly delivered genre moments, but they are great fun.
    By deconstructing his film to pure cinematic and movie elements, without a cohesive narrative, he has created a wonderfully patient and surprising absorbing work of art. As he says in the screenplay “Everything is subjective,” and “Reality is arbitrary”. But there is more going on than that. The decision to resist the ‘manipulation’ of a narrative is, of course, wickedly anti-commercial. Fans of the director’s minimalism will probably have the patience to bask in the formal compositions and wonderful cinematography by the great Christopher Doyle(paranoid Park, In the Mood for Love). Small events read like a series of arch noir and spy movie clichés - the naked beauty he finds on his hotel bed (“I never have sex when I’m working” he tells the naked women, who reappears several times in a transparent raincoat) codes and messages appear in box matches, in the café he always orders two cups of espresso in the same café each day. Is this a clue to people he is meeting? The secret to whether you are ‘one of us’ seems to be the phrase “You don’t speak Spanish do you” . But who are “us”!?
    The pace is languid, the details clever, the humor intentional. It’s a different kind of movie experience. You just need to be prepared to write it yourself!

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