The Limits of Control
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Jim Jarmusch has something very important on his mind in “The Limits of Control,” but I’ll be dipped if I can figure out what it is.
Here’s the best clue we’re offered: Tilda Swinton appears to our hero (Isacch De Bankolé) wearing a cream-colored coat, bright white Stetson hat, and equally white hair. She is his contact in this particular small Spanish town. She begins to talk about movies and how closely they resemble dreams. “I like the movies that are like dreams,” she says. “The ones where you’re not sure if you saw them or dreamed them.” Hm… “Some movies,” she continues, “are best when people don’t say anything at all. Where people just sit and don’t talk.”
They sit and don’t talk for a moment.
I’m guessing Jarmusch also likes that kind of movie, because that’s what “The Limits of Control” resembles. A half-forgetten dream.
“The Limits of Control” is ostensibly about a hitman/criminal/drug dealer of some sort (De Bankolé, the Côte D’Ivoirian cab driver from “Night on Earth”), who is credited as only Lone Man. He meets his contacts in a small café in Spain, ordering two espressos in separate cups. His contacts appear, and they exchange matchbooks. His matchbooks contain diamonds. His contacts’ matchbooks contain a small slip of paper with a series of numbers written on them. He eats the paper each time. His expression never changes from one of cold professionalism. No matter what.
His contacts are diverse. Apart from the strangely outfitted Swinton, we also get to see a worldly John Hurt, who gabs about Bohemia, and a mellow Gael García Bernal as an archetypal cowboy. We’ll eventually meet Bill Murray, who’s character is like a cross between Gordon Gekko and Donald Rumsfeld.
Also, we meet Paz de la Huerta, credited as “Nude,” who wears nothing but a pair of glasses throughout the film. She meets Lone Man in his hotel room and asks to have sex. He coldly and professionally refuses. She slinks about for a few scenes, titillating the audience, And then is seen no more. Um… O.k.
One of the final lines of dialogue is “Reality is arbitrary.” The film’s original title was “No Limits, No Control.”
And that’s it. The films ends. that’s all. Tha’s the movie. Really.
I’m sorry if I haven’t properly criticized the film, or given you any real interpretations, but I was lost. I think the film is meant to be impenetrable. Some impenetrable films can be very good (I’m fond of David Lynch, for instance), but “The Limits of Control” seems to go out of its way to be opaque and alienating.
Jarmusch has done better than this, and will do better in future. Try out “Night on Earth” instead, and go from there.