If it's crap ... We'll tell you
I am stuck, dear readers, I am stuck. I have just finished viewing “The Limits of Control,” and I don't know what to say. As of this writing, this is Jim Jarmusch's latest film. And boy, what a film it is. And it's not good. In fact, that may be an understatement. It was pretty damn stupid. Don't get me wrong, I like Jarmusch's earlier films as much as the next guy, but this was unnecessary.
Films like these can rub people one of two ways. They can love them, or they can hate them. I believe in this case, I fall into the latter category. When I mean films like these, what do I mean? Well, minimal dialogue with an interesting story with cool moments. Much like samurai films, which I think this is trying to be. Samurai films, such as “Yojimbo” have a story where the main protagonist says next to nothing, and anything they do or say, we just want to emulate. And in some cases, we have. Hell, Leone enjoyed “Yojimbo” so much he remade it into “For A Fistful of Dollars” starring Clint Eastwood.
And why were they cool? How about if you're surrounded by three bad guys with guns, and you turn to the local undertaker and tell him you're going to need three coffins. You shoot all three plus another who you didn't see in hiding. And when that's done, you turn to the undertaker and say, “My mistake. Four coffins.” That is cool. Let me reiterate; That. Is. Cool. It's simple, it's quick. It's you being coolly smug about the fact that you just shot four people who tried to get the drop on you, and living.
Things like that don't happen here. No. What we get is a guy who travels through Spain, and runs into a series of contacts who speak in cryptic dialogue and trade a box of matches with him. A lot of them being stars of the international category. (John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal) But the problem is, they aren't given anything to do except be there. That's it. Except, of course, for make awkward conversation. Now, David Lynch does this all the time. But he knows how to make that kind of story interesting.
Jarmusch, as strong a director as I think he is, fails to deliver a film that could sustain my intellectual curiosity for a mere two hours. To elaborate: Our hero (Isaach de Bankolé) spends most of the film watching the world in silence. He practices a tai chi-like exercise, and look at paintings in a museum. He also rejects the sexual companionship of a girl who is always nude. Why? Because he doesn't have sex when he's working. I think this may be a cop out on Jarmusch's part. He teases us with the allure of a gorgeous, naked girl, but doesn't allow her to do anything except sleep or taunt the guy. Okay, a guy who enjoys art, and is celibate to ensure optimum job performance? I could see that, I guess. But not for two hours.
Another thing. For a two hour movie, there's maybe fifteen minutes of dialogue. Twenty at the absolute most. And the thing is, it's all cryptic. (e.g. “He who thinks he is bigger than the rest must go to the cemetery. There he will see what life really is: a handful of dirt.”) Others talk with gusto about their existential, almost sophisticated views of certain films and music. I hate it when movies do this. I really do. It's the writer's way of saying, “See, I'm smart. Look at how I can pontificate about this film you've never heard of.”
Why am I being so harsh on this film? Because I've seen Jarmusch do better. Much better. He has different views than I, but I've never held that against him. Until now. He must have written this entire movie on a cocktail napkin. It's like he took so many shortcuts in order to avoid overspending his budget. How exactly? The lack of dialogue for starters. I think he just forgot a sound guy. Maybe I'm being mean. He could have done a voice-over narration to tell us more about the guy. For three quarters of the film, we could guess that he is simply on a scavenger hunt, what with all the clues he gets from people. He might as well be trying to find a buried treasure, at least then it might have been worth it.
We find out he is an assassin who has to kill a guy. Why don't we find this out at the beginning, and have a longer sense of suspense on if he will or won't complete his task? Who knows? Jarmusch had every opportunity, but failed to realize that. Like I said at the beginning, films like these can go either one of two ways. Minimal dialogue can work in a film, but you have to keep the viewer interested. Hell, “Baraka” never had a word in it, and yet I enjoyed it. Why? Because it was visually stunning, and the constant change of location kept me involved in where they were going to whisk me off to next.
I don't know. Maybe Jarmusch thought this was a way for him to evolve as a filmmaker. He had some good people involved in the film, I'm not arguing that. Hell, he got Chris Doyle as his cinematographer. That guy's got some of the best visuals under his belt. (“Hero,” plus a bunch of Wong Kar-Wai's films) Again, the problem is, to me, the script. I think there needed to be more meat on the bones for not just the actors, but for the viewers themselves.
Critical Analysis: Not enough story, nor character, to support a two-hour film.
In Summation: This will be another one of those “Oh” movies. I'll see it, and remember it for its qualities for a week or two, then forget about it. Only mentioning it again when the title comes up in conversation, prompting me to call this the worst movie of Jarmusch's I have ever seen. Sorry, Jim. Hope you can do better next time.
My Final Rating: 1/5 Stars