limits of control
I saw Jim Jarmusch’s new film the Limits of Control last night. It’s hip and spare and beautiful, a thriller of sorts, about a man sent from Madrid to Andalusia to do a task and all of the strange people he meets on the way.
When I saw Dead Man – Jarmusch’s beautiful film from over ten years ago – I found it hard to watch, and then couldn’t put it out of my mind for months and now years. It’s a hypnotic piece that cares nothing for your impatience or agendas or need to be entertained. In a sense it reverses the typical equasion: instead of jumping around for your attention it allows you the privilege of watching: a subtle and enormously satisfying difference. It’s the film’s time and movement and motivations that matter, and given the chance they will freeze you into a different understanding of things.
In this sense, Limits of Control is a lot like Dead Man, though maybe a little more of a diagram. Like Dead Man the hero is on a journey, he meets a string of characters who make curious pronouncements about life, the trip is rendered like a lush dream saturated in the light of southern Spain and guitar feedback, the hero says virtually nothing but inhabits a space of enormous gravity and knowledge and calm. The world and all that is in it seem to fit with mystery and ease in the walk and the stoic face of lone man Isaach De Bankolé.
The overwhelming sense is hip and silence and repetitive action, and Jarmusch takes these and cranks them tight: he gives you repetition and silence beyond anything you’ve seen before. It’s his ability to assume risk – by refusing to entertain you in conventional ways, by allowing time to pass excruciatingly slowly, and showing people doing and saying mysterious things – that makes the film transcend from mere narrative convention to legend or myth.
I like this statement:
“Boiled to a facetious essence, the film becomes little more than ‘Kill Bill‘ (Murray),” writes Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York. “But taken as a state of mind writ photochemically large…, ‘The Limits of Control’ suddenly reveals its depths of insight and emotion.”
“I always wanted to make an action film with no action, or a film with suspense but no drama.”