Worth A Look: 18.42%
Just Average: 15.79%
Pretty Crappy: 15.79%
6 reviews, 2 user ratings
|Limits of Control, The
by Erik Childress
Albeit almost like a companion piece to Lost In Translation for Bill Murray, I wonder if fans of Jim Jarmusch actually consider him a sellout for making Broken Flowers. After all it was a really good film that managed to take one of Jarmusch’s recurring themes, a character putting together a puzzle of his existence, and not make it feel like just another exercise in independent idiosyncracies. I’m aware of Jarmusch’s fan base, a cultish group of auteur seekers and coffee house hipster wannabes that I cannot count myself a part of. After seeing his latest, The Limits of Control, his first film since Broken Flowers, I was left with such a need to find any filmmaker from the recent spate of mumblecore or minimalist cinema, take the hand they barely write with and drop an anvil on it. Robb Reiner and Lips would have sufficed. Instead I have decided to have a conversation with a Jarmusch fan. His name is Jippy Von Dipterbag and he’s going to try and explain to me why The Limits of Control is a work of a genius why I resist the urge to punch him in the eye.ERIK:: Hello there, Jippy.
"On Your Eyelids And Your Ass"
JIPPY:: Hey Erik, long time.
ERIK:: So before you go into trying to convince me that I’m wrong about The Limits of Control being just another slice of jerkoff cinema, do you mind if I try to put the plot into words for my readers?
JIPPY:: I don’t think words can do the film justice, but give it your best shot.
ERIK:: Thanks. The film opens with an airport meeting between a guy played by Isaach De Bankolé and two gangster-lookin’ dudes. With one of them speaking another language and the other translating, De Bankolé’s sharp-lookin’ enforcer/handler/whatever is assigned some sort of cryptic mission involving Spain and a violin. How am I doing, Jip?
JIPPY:: Oh you’re just getting warmed up.
ERIK:: Sure I am. Is the mysterious task master after that museum painting that resembles a violin? Not at all. In the pre-arranged meeting place at an outdoor café, he actually meets a guy (Luis Tolar) holding a violin. They have a one-sided conversation since De Bankolé isn’t much of a talker. They exchange matchboxes which contain his new instructions in a square series of nine letters and numbers on a folded piece of paper that he rids of by washing it down with one of the two espressos he always orders in separate cups. Am I doing it justice, Jippy?
JIPPY:: Well, I think you’re being condescending to the symbolism.
ERIK:: One step at a time there. I just want to tell readers about the next couple of scenes. In-between meetings, De Bankolé comes back to his hotel room to find a naked woman (Paz de la Huerta) waiting for him. When she’s not pointing a gun at him, she’s modeling sheer raincoats or sleeping in his bed. Not for sex because it’s the mission first. One of the few times De Bankolé opens his mouth in the whole film is to refuse sex on the job.
JIPPY:: So he’s a bad dude for refusing sex?
ERIK:: Not necessarily. He’s a professional and doesn’t want to cloud his judgment with some mysterious naked broad with oblong breasts. I can respect that.
JIPPY:: So what’s your problem?
ERIK:: My problem is with the next scene. De Bankolé is back at the café. This time he’s approached by a blonde Tilda Swinton. She asks him a variation on the same question about what he’s interested in, speaks some philosophy on some point she’s trying to make. Matchbox. Coded instructions. Mouth. Sip. Swallow.
JIPPY:: Yeah, and?
ERIK:: THAT’S THE ENTIRE MOVIE!!!
JIPPY:: Now you’re just being silly. A lot more happens after that.
ERIK:: Oh really, Jip? Enlighten us.
JIPPY:: Well there’s the café scene with John Hurt and the one with Gael Garcia Bernal.
ERIK:: Same crap. Different day.
JIPPY:: No, wait a minute now. There’s the train conversation with Youki Kudoh and the indoor café with the dancer.
JIPPY:: And what? Didn’t you see how Swinton’s umbrella was made of the same material as Huerta’s raincoat?
ERIK:: Yes I did notice that. It happened while I was still awake.
JIPPY:: (making a Pffffft sound and rolling his eyes): Typical American.
ERIK:: Dude, you’re from Bensenville.
JIPPY:: I’m just saying it’s obvious you have no appreciation or understanding of the cinema.
ERIK:: Because I don’t care for filmmakers taking nearly two hours to make a point that isn’t as monumental as they believe.
JIPPY:: And what point do you believe he’s trying to make?
ERIK:: That rich Americans have corrupted every aspect of the social and global landscape.
JIPPY:: And do you disagree?
ERIK:: Not necessarily. But if that’s what your movie is about, don’t you want to populate it with interesting characters who have somehow been affected by this theory instead of just ciphers babbling non-sequiters and repeating the same behavior as everyone else in their camp? Isn’t that part of the argument against the Rich White Man Elephant Clique?
JIPPY:: But these characters aren’t rich. They’re artists.
ERIK:: Exactly. So why don’t they use their time and talents to craft a song or a screenplay that draws attention to the problem instead of spending all their time putzing around at cafes? I guess then they’d be just like you, JIPPY:.
JIPPY:: Ooooh, big talk from a guy who spends his time criticizing other’s work.
ERIK:: Touche. But at least I’m not blinded into justifying the nonsensical just because I’m a fan of the director’s previous work.
JIPPY:: Whatever you say, Crystal Skull.
ERIK:: Hey, I’ll take surviving a nuked fridge over surviving The Limits of Control a second time.
JIPPY:: So what is your real beef with the film? And don’t just say you were bored.
ERIK:: I won’t. Even though I was. But I was only bored once it became clear that this was one of those mysteries that was not going to be solved.
JIPPY:: Wait a minute. Didn’t you have Synecdoche, New York on your Top 10 list last year?
ERIK:: As a matter of fact I did. And if you want to draw comparisons between writers making a passionate point about art, Charlie Kaufman has Jarmusch beat hands down. His characters in Synecdoche also were representative of a greater truth in the main character’s life and imagination but also maintained a humanistic quality that didn’t require them to be named by their traits.
JIPPY:: None of the characters in The Limits of Control have names.
ERIK:: Maybe not within the film itself. No one is called by an actual name. But in the credits – and all the press notes we’ve been inundated with – they are identified in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. One guy is Violin. John Hurt is Guitar. Tilda Swinton is Blonde and Paz de la Huerta is Nude. One handler is Creole and the other is French while Bernal is Mexican. And to drive it all home, the film’s villainous presence portrayed by Bill Murray is known flat-out as American, complete in a suit and hairpiece, shut off from the world in a soundproof office, quick to blame the Mexicans when things go wrong.
JIPPY:: What a genius, huh?
ERIK:: You know, man, the cinema already has one David Lynch. And since Twin Peaks that’s one too many. The last thing we need is a subpar auteur trying to wade in his pool.
JIPPY:: Subpar? What about Ghost Dog and Dead Man?
ERIK:: Keep ‘em. More philosophical ramblings in the guise of indie cinema masking itself in a genre blanket. Not impressed.
JIPPY:: Such a hater.
ERIK:: All right look here Von D-Bag. You know what the difference is between a two-star film and a one-star film?
JIPPY:: What’s that?
ERIK:: A half-hour of walking. Or sitting. Or lying in bed. Seriously, if you take out all the interludes of De Bankolé walking or being driven or walking again or sitting and waiting you might have an 85-minute movie. And waiting through an initially semi-interesting mystery to get to the three-minute Bill Murray scene for only 80 minutes is a lot better than having to wait for 101. Not to mention another 10 for the credits to begin. Wendy and Lucy. Perfect example. Certainly not my favorite film by any stretch last year. Minimalist cinema at its most bare. But it was only 75 minutes long. You know they used to have a name for works like that and The Limits of Control. They were called short films. Only now so many indie filmmakers think they can stretch storylines to feature length when they aren’t justified. At 15 minutes, The Limits of Control might be deemed an interesting experiment by a filmmaker returning to his roots. At ONE-HUNDRED and 15 minutes you have a conceited wankfest that tests the limits of the audience’s control to stay awake and in their seats.
JIPPY:: You just don’t get it, man. Jarmusch uses silence the way a painter uses a smock.
ERIK:: What does that even mean?
JIPPY:: If you don’t know, you never will.
ERIK:: Can I pose a serious question to you JVD? In colleges across the country, the philosophy course is always regarded as the big blow-off one. And the ones who take it seriously are the ones who major in it only to graduate and see that it has no applicable function in the job market other than professional pot tester. So why has Jarmusch’s films struck such a chord on the indie circuit when the primary function of most of his films is to synch up with the kind of meaning-of-life questions that even the deadly serious 101 crowds would be bored with?
JIPPY:: Sorry man, what? I’m totally baked.ERIK: Yeah that’s great. Tell you what there sport. The next time Jarmusch decides to make another film like The Limits of Control, do me a favor and get me one of those smocks you referred to because if he’s going to jerkoff on my time I want to make sure I’m prepared.
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originally posted: 05/08/09 00:00:00