The Limits of Control: Graphic Nudity and Some Language

Jim Jarmusch leads a termite life, and that probably suits him just fine. His work may never be truly appreciated until he’s no longer around. His second and third films formed such an indelible impression of who he is as an artist that every subsequent attempt to do something different is merely disregarded. He is a filmmaker of return, cloaking his obsession with certain imagery and ideas with a need to constantly be exploring new (physical) territory. His tenth film, The Limits of Control, now has a trailer.

Jarmusch has his recurring themes and motifs that he riffs around. The notion of a “road movie” is no more of a cliche to him than a familiar chord sequence might be to a jazz musician. It’s not the core that’s important, it’s what happens around it. Both Night on Earth and Coffee and Cigarettes were built around the model of theme with variations. The Limits of Control sees the return of the African-American hit-man (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), the stranger in a strange land (Begnini in Down By Law, the taxi passengers in Night on Earth, William Blake in Dead Man), enigmatic women (Stranger Than Paradise, Broken Flowers), and, of course, the road movie (almost all of the above.)

The cast is assembled the way a musician gets familiar players together. Isaach de Bankole plays the man with a mission, described in the titles as “A Professional.” Bill Murray, who did his Easter Island stone head impression for JJ in Broken Flowers and Coffee and Cigarettes, is either the man’s target or simply not happy to see him. Most intriguingly, de Bankole is entangled with two women. Tilda Swinton briefly appeared in Broken Flowers. I think the woman with the geek glasses is Paz de la Huerta.

“Sometimes the reflection is far more present than the thing being reflected,” says Gael Garcia Bernal, as if anticipating all the self-referentiality this involves. Jarmusch loves the road movie because he’s ultimately more thrilled by process than the final results. That’s one of the reasons why he throws off short films in his downtime, or why he decided to follow Neil Young on the road for his documentary Year of the Horse. Once the film is in theatres, it’s the audience’s problem. His movies are like a postcard. There are some pleasantries that might seem cliched but are sincerely felt, some original observations, a defining image, and once it is sent off it is most likely forgotten by the person who wrote it.

There is an emphasis on space–particularly when de Bankole and Murray are looking at each other across a far room. Women walk down slickly-lit corridors or alleyways. Cars drive through tunnels. And there is also a shot of de Bankole wandering through a Spanish desert that could be out of a Leone or a Bunuel film. Jarmusch is one of the great architectural filmmakers. These spaces either define the characters, or maybe the characters enter these spaces in order to be defined by them.

de Bankole’s journey takes him past landmarks that Jarmusch has seen from afar. There is a brief shot of flamenco dancing which recalls Joaquin Cortes’ performance in Almodovar’s Flower of My Secret. There is the dichotomy of the women. This is Jarmusch’s first film with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, a similar “on the road” type, and Tilda Swinton’s blond wig and dark glasses recall Brigitte Lin’s get-up in Chungking Express. Is de la Huerta a Faye Wong or merely a low-rent Penelope Cruz? That I can’t say.

The Limits of Control opens on May 22 on limited release.

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