Monday, 8 March 2010

THE LIMITS OF CONTROL (USA/2009/JIM JARMUSCH)

An unnamed man (Isaach de Bankolé) meets two men at an airport who provide him with a list of cryptic instructions in various languages. Apparently obeying them, the man then takes a plane to Madrid and endures a series of mysterious meetings with people. The people do not appear to know the protagonist, or even each other, but they share in common a philosophical manner which renders further instructions difficult to interpret. Each of these encounters follows the pattern of a bizarre ritual involving two cups of espressos, the question “You don’t speak Spanish, right?” and a written code which the man reads and then eats. Throughout his unorthodox journey, the man registers almost no emotion, even as he is repeatedly accosted by a flirtatious nude woman. Towards the end of the film, the man’s role becomes clear when he makes his way into a guarded compound in the desert.

It is hard to sum up The Limits Of Control after just one viewing. By deliberately eschewing familiar narrative traits, director Jim Jarmusch demands special attention to detail from the audience, but the film’s slow pacing and the repetitive nature of the meetings often drive away interest. In essence, it is a mystery reluctant to be solved, Christopher Doyle’s stellar cinematography burnishing the more incomprehensible moments to a pretty shine. But even at his most obscure, Jarmusch’s boyish sense of humour remains, with lines such as “sometimes I like it in films when people just sit there, not saying anything”.





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