LIMITS OF CONTROL
A mysterious loner (Isaach De Bankolé), is given a mission by two mystery men, in which he travels across Spain, meeting with equally mysterious strangers, each with a symbolic signature: violin (Luis Tosar), nude (Paz de la Huerta), blonde (Tilda Swinton), molecules (Youki Kudoh), guitar (John Hurt), Mexican (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the driver (Hiam Abbass). His meetings involve the exchange of coded messages and his destination turns out to be a remote, high security villa, where he confronts the American (Bill Murray).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Jim Jarmusch, one of my favourite indie American filmmakers, has always had an eye for the ordinary in life, and a gift for turning that ordinary into something fascinating - be it objects, places and above all, human beings. He carries those gifts with into this film, but he departs from not only his own cinematic language, but any cinematic language with which audiences might be familiar - except that of David Lynch's mysterious movie tongue.
Mystery appeals to Lynch and now it seems it has captured the imagination of Jarmusch, with a film some may easily dismiss as pretentious and at best, enigmatic. But some may find in its ever receding clarity a certain compulsive appeal, as the story is stripped of all context and the mysterious stranger ends up in a series of meetings that are a variation on each other. In that respect you could say it's a movie version of a su-do-ku puzzle, which contains a series of small puzzles that make up one larger puzzle. (And each small puzzle is a version of the large one ....)
Clearly aiming to explore some aspect of the human condition, Jarmusch nevertheless baffles us with a central character that isn't . . . if action is character in drama, there isn't much of it. He hardly speaks, even when addressed, and his relationship to the world around him is the exact opposite of the see through coat in which the naked Paz de la Huerta makes an alluring appearance or two.
Each of his encounters is a tease, but with the calibre of this cast, each playing just one scene (Paz gets more) these scenes are entertaining, in the way a well crafted novelty item may be entertaining - but ultimately of no lasting value. Likewise with The Limits of Control, with its many spectacularly composed (and lit) images accenting shapes and textures, and which offers a dream-like journey into cinematic fantasy, but lacks the elements that relate it to the real world. This is perhaps an ironic intent, since the film's stated theme, repeated a few times is that life has no meaning. If that's the theme, the film itself can have no meaning.
Review by Louise Keller:
In lesser hands than those of Jim Jarmusch, this unusual road trip could be considered pretentious or indeed boring. No such chance here. There's a wonderful sense of intrigue throughout as we jump into the skin of Isaach De Bankolé's Lone Man protagonist as he follows obtuse clues that point him towards his unknown quest. The arbitrary nature of reality (whatever that means) is scrutinised through a highly complex scenario, details of which we are given in tiny morsels. It's all about the journey and our journey is crammed with details. We soak up a myriad of them as the pieces of Jarmusch's puzzle fall into place, the film's visuals and music playing the largest part; dialogue is used like a tease. I felt hypnotised as I was drawn into the reality of this captivating film that keeps us wondering until the final scene and beyond.
From the very first scene, when we meet the Lone Man deep in concentration in his meditative tai chi, we become aware that Jarmusch's storytelling is about to embrace different perspectives. This is accentuated by the camera angles which naturally veer from high to low, with reflected imagery and subjective points of view in mirrors. De Bankolé, who is in every scene, is a powerful force, his striking facial features captured effectively in tight close up through much of the film. As the man who doesn't like guns, mobile phones or sex while he's working, he has an intriniscally still presence - much is conveyed with few words. Our journey is punctuated and coloured by the diverse characters he meets.
There's the luscious Paz de la Huerta who spends most of her screen time naked and who is perhaps even more memorable, wearing a transparent plastic raincoat. Youki Kudoh's girl on the train to Seville who extols the virtues of science and molecules; Bill Murray's mysterious, powerful American; Gael García Bernal's long-haired Mexican and John Hurt, who carries a well-worn guitar-case. Most intriguing of all is Tilda Swinton's striking girl with white hair, hat, gloves and umbrella, whose passion is movies.
We are drip fed clue after clue as our eyes lap up the atmospheric Spanish settings with its art museums, distinctive buildings, flamenco guitar club, outdoor cafes, cobbled lanes and countryside. A matchbox containing a coded piece of paper is exchanged again and again. What does it mean? Where is the story going? Do we care? Yes we do. Although admittedly, the resolution can never completely live up to the journey that takes us there.
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LIMITS OF CONTROL (M)
(US/ Spain/Japan, 2009)
CAST: Isaach De Bankolé, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal
PRODUCER: Gretchen McGowan, Stacey E. Smith
DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch
SCRIPT: Jim Jarmusch
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christopher Doyle
EDITOR: Jay Rabinowitz
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Eugenio Caballero
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 23, 2009