Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Limits of Control

Isaach De Bankole "The Lone Man"

I watched Jim Jarmusch's "The Limits of Control" last night. There are plenty of on-line reviews, but what I liked was seeing a return to a poetic, Antonioni-style film-making. A nice comparison might the "The Passenger." Not that the stories are the same--quite the opposite. Jack Nicholson's character in "Passenger," after stealing the identity of a man he doesn't know, is drawn into the mystery of the man's life, with a bit of female "candy" to keep him company in the person of Maria Schriver.

In "Limits," the central character (called simply "Lone Man" in the credits) keeps himself utterly in control at all times through a day to day of ritual, meets various surreal-ish asignations who give him coded directions to his next "stop," and finally successfully accomplishes his mission, after which he sheds his exterior persona. The "limits" turn out to be the Lone Man himself, a man who is utterly in control, and manages to destroy the control imposed on events by American power, in the persona of Bill Murray.

Like Antonioni, the story is told in images. It's not "L'eclisse" or "L'Avventura," primarly because there is no love to infuse the scenes, beyond the love of the images themselves--which are gorgeous throughout. But as the Lone Man tells us--I never make love when I'm working. I liked the poetry of presenting the Lone Man with an impossible fortification, then simply placing him inside it. Whole movies are made in the service of solving the problem. Jarmusch just does all that off-stage, because it's irrelevant in a poem anyway.

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