Monday, June 8, 2015

The Limits of Control

A friend once explained that whenever he needed to chill out, he played the film A GOOD YEAR, the one with Russell Crowe.   I have some films like that, ones that exude an unexplainable calm, whether because they are soothing in some skillful way or just flat out boring.  I can add Jim Jarmusch's THE LIMITS OF CONTROL from 2012 to the list, a film about a hit man on assignment that is about as low energy and lethargic as anything I've seen.  Some things do happen, but very few and few and far between in this nearly two hour film.

Many people really hate this movie.  It's not hard to see why.  Detractors of Malick often describe watching his films as akin to watching paint dry. Jarmusch's film will make THE NEW WORLD seem like SPEED to such viewers.  Isaach De Bankolé is the Lone Man, assigned a mission that will lead him to several lonely locations throughout Spain.  His instructions are limited to phrases like "Use your imagination and your skills."  The Lone Man meets a variety of characters in cafes and on trains.  He always orders two separate espressos and by the end of each meeting will switch matchboxes with his contacts, played by actors like John Hurt and Tilda Swinton, who plays "Blonde" and loves to speak of "really old films.....when people just sit there, not saying anything."  You can almost hear Jarmusch chuckling to himself off camera.

Another meeting produces a phrase I'm just itching to use at an opportune moment: "Wait three days until you see the bread and the guitar will find you."

Each meeting may be Jarmusch's own chapters in his version of a Zen bible.  Certainly the idea of Dhyāna, or meditation, is a focus in THE LIMITS OF CONTROL.  My knowledge of Zen doctrine and Buddhism is admittedly very limited so I may have missed quite a bit with this film.  The Lone Man exhibits patience, self-control (he repeatedly refuses the advances of a woman, usually shown naked, and tells her of his abstinence while he's working), and may represent a teacher or spiritual leader of some sort.  I just don't know.  I do know that the film, beautifully composed and filmed by Christopher Doyle, works a spell that made me feel more relaxed than I have in a while. Static scene after static scene the film becomes hypnotic and just this side of somnolescent.  Even when Bill Murray shows up at the end and loudly curses.

I think Focus Features could market this film with other videos meant to manage anxiety and hypertension, though for many, the result will be just the opposite. If you can get with its flow, and you appreciate Jarmusch, you might find a nirvana of sorts.  Either way, you've been warned, invisible audience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We aint invisible oh enlightened LLDrivel. We's just quietlike.