7 Jan 2010

Limits Of Control

To say Jim Jarmusch is a filmmaker who defies cinematic traditions would be something of an understatement. After winning the Camera D’Or (Best First Film) at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival with his self-defined “hipster comedy” Stranger Than Paradise, he has gone on to create a body of work as unique as anyone working in American independent cinema.

His trademark is a low-key, minimalist sensibility that seems as inspired by the poets he studied at Columbia University in New York as by any filmmaker, as well as a willingness to frequently cast musicians in key roles (Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, and the Rza have all made multiple appearances in his work). The Limits Of Control finds this always fascinating filmmaker on his most frustrating form though, as his desire to foray into the more abstract and experimental aspects of the cinema result in a film which is stunning to look at, but offers very little else. Even by his own standards this is maddeningly elliptical and obscure, Isaach De Bankole plays a mysterious hitman who travels through Spain encountering Bill Murray, John Hurt and others in a series of enigmatic encounters that add up to very little in the end. As Tilda Swinton’s character The Blonde puts it, “Sometimes, I like it in films when people just sit there, not saying anything”, which could almost be viewed as an ethos for Jarmusch’s entire career. Considering Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen looks like being the most popular movie of 2009, I guess we should be indebted to anyone still willing to make these films, even if on this occasion he doesn’t quite deliver the goods.

Matthew Kleebauer


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