peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2024 01 20 TheLimitsOfControl

The Limits of Control (2009)

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This one has been on the pile since it got released, partly because the reviews were dire. I watched it in two sittings but not for any particular reason.

Writer/director Jim Jarmusch brings us to Spain. Mysterious lead Isaach De Bankolé (dial strikingly familiar but I'm not sure from what) then takes us from Madrid to Seville and on to Almería, stopping off for coffee (two espressos in separate cups) and cigarettes (other people smoke) vignettes initiated with an instantly irritating "habla español" refrain and featuring an exchange of old school matchboxes, some containing diamonds. We don't actually see him ever finish the two espressos, and as he's mute for almost the entire running time it's unclear what we're supposed to learn from these scenes. Given that his interlocutors are named actors (Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Bill Murray) things fall into an uncanny valley of too much talk, not enough character, no overarching narrative and no action. Bankolé echoes Forest Whitaker in Jarmusch's earlier and far more successful Ghost Dog by having a creed, albeit one so minimally sketched it may as well not exist. This is all very annoying as there is plenty to make something out of excepting the fundamental conceit.

Otherwise there are some good shots of airports, trains, plantations, mountains — as you'd hope for from cinematographer Christopher Doyle. There's the odd burst of sonic excellence to go with his moving images. Overall I did enjoy it, albeit idly as Jarmusch completism.

Roger Ebert: half a star. Even Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name had more to say. Dana Stevens. Pretentious! Manohla Dargis. Everyone was so bored.