Monday, 11 January 2010

the limits of control (jarmusch)

Jarmusch, where do you place him? Where does he place himself? In this instance in Spain, and that doesn't seem too wrong, if you view Spain as a kind of non-place, fundamental to European culture yet at the same time stuck out on a limb, protruding, secretly influenced more than it cares to realise by Africa and Islam, both a finger pointing towards the new world, and the tip of an Islamic crescent which stretches from Kashmir through Mecca to the gates of Madrid. A place in the centre of itself and yet on the edge of almost everything else, one way or another. Which, perhaps overwhelmed by its potential for influence, retreats into seemingly static traditions whose foreign roots are scarcely remembered.

All of which seems more than appropriate for the lesser spotted Jarmusch, as he corrals a multi-national cast of primetime art-movie luminaries, steering them through a movie of high European art-house pacing, whilst referencing Hitchcock and an older Hollywood school, the whole thing coming to an understated climax when the black man of unclear provenance, wearing his fancy suits, (Isaach De Bankole), assassinates a Rumsfeld impersonating Bill Murray. De Bankole is poker faced throughout, and the narrative makes no attempt to enter his mind. The title and the fact that he has to spend a good portion of the film fighting off the nubile advances of a naked Paz De La Huerta, imply that the script might be an exploration of his ability to maintain control over his anime, but this may also be a red herring in a film so full of them it's almost constantly swimming out of view.

In truth, like many Jarmusch films, Limits of Control is a slow-paced shaggy dog story, which could be accused of being an exercise in style, but does just enough to suggest that it's more than that, although you might need to belong to another form of consciousness, which could be Zen, or could be simply Spanish, in order to work out what precisely this 'more than' might be. Despite the fact that both people sitting either side of me dozed at various points, I found myself enjoying the sheer inanity and probable vacuity of the elongated tale; as though guided round a maze for three hours with your eyes shut. You're either going to hate it or go with it. Neither Hollywood nor European, the Limits of Control is resolutely Jarmuschian, a land all of its own. The fact that it ended in Atocha station, the place where all the best stories begin, only added to its unlikely charm.

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