If ennui could be given shape, made to move, gifted a voice, and left to berate those who are expected to not understand then it would be Jim Jarmusch’s new film The Limits of Control. With its oppressively deliberate pacing, and sparse, overtly theatrical dialogue one is left with the feeling that the titled “Limits” refer to the reins the director held so tightly over the picture itself, and whether such draconian film making could ever succeed. Usually one of the most user friendly of the art house auteur Jarmusch strays from that ethos with a movie that challenges its audience; most won’t raise to the occasion, and those that do probably had a fulfilling forty winks the night before.
Set in ever decreasingly geometric locales throughout Spain The Limits of Control. borrows heavily from European heavy weight filmmakers in an effort to criticize American culture, politics, and whatever else it can get its hands on. Playing like a bastard love child of Goddard’s Weekend and Antonioni’s The Passenger “Control” moves at a snail’s pace, and if you are into that sort of thing then kudos, just be forewarned. Spoiler Alert! Nothing happens. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is up to the viewer. Where those legends mentioned above deftly wielded inaction like a scalpel, Jarmusch swings away with a sledge hammer of stasis.
Betting heavily on the chiseled face of Isaac de Bankole to carry almost every frame seems like a good wager, though his lack of any visible emotion (see the title of the film) leaves one wishing for something with which to connect. The rest of the cast is rounded out with meta stunt casting of big names and faces of modern cinema. Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal, and especially Bill Murray are given almost nothing to do, but to exist with their faces, their names, and their cache – can an art film be released without big names you ask?
Intellectually the themes and theses of “The Limits of Control are interesting if not a little self-consciously pretentious, though the film is better in theory than in practice – better to ponder the ideas fleetingly than to spend two hours with them. For hardcore Jarmusch fans the film probably won’t disappoint, but it will be hard pressed to convert any newcomers into the fold. Art it is, but maybe The Limits of Controlwould be better served residing in a gallery than in theaters. It’s still called show business isn’t it?
El Luchador Rating: (2 out of 5)
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)