Two single espressos in separate cups, please, while we discuss this one. Jim Jarmusch’s extraordinary The Limits of Control (2009) is quite possibly the American filmmaker’s most meditative work to date, an utterly modern film that boldly eschews narrative conventions in favor of an ambience of sparseness and a preternatural calm unsuited for contemporary tastes.
Or as Jarmusch himself puts it, an action movie with no action in it whatsoever. This poetic film’s molten beauty is entrenched in a stoic refusal to offer easy explanations, the languid colors and densities of The Limits of Control settling into trancelike rhythm with the fluid ingenuity of cinematographer Christopher Doyle. The camera shadows a nameless protagonist (“Lone Man”) played by the fastidiously poised Isaach De Bankole, who roves across illusionary landscapes with a quiet grace that personifies his role as the film’s solo avenger. Neither distance nor time matters much to this avatar of cold dawns, as he embarks on a series of symmetrically surreal encounters with mysterious strangers doubling as ephemeral conspirators.
Watching The Limits of Control is akin to immersing into a cinema of careful contemplation and in his openness to preying on the boundless possibilities of film as a narrative/deconstructive medium, Jarmusch seems to be suggesting that it is only in the hinterlands of imagination where everything is truly illuminated. (In a pivotal scene, Bankole’s character manages to enter a heavily guarded fortress by literally “using his imagination”.)
Jarmusch claimed to have been listening to a lot of the progressive metal bands who are on the movie soundtrack, songs that were apparently integral to his initial ideas for The Limits of Control. The shimmering “Farewell” by the Japanese noise veterans Boris (featured prominently in the film) coalesces nicely with the film’s enigmatic textures, its waves of tuneful guitar distortion broaching an unutterably ecstatic peace and clarity of purpose that Jarmusch may have been trying to invoke in the Lone Man’s highly refined stratagem. – keith.
mp3: boris – farewell