The Limits of Control by Jim Jarmusch

“As I descend down impassable rivers, I no longer feel guided by the ferryman.” – Rimbaud (opening lines of The Drunken Boat and of The Limits of Control)

The Limits of Control tells the tale of a professional hitman who is an outsider on a mission. This outsider is played by Isaach De Bankolé who is appropriately credited as Lone Man. This is a story that slacker filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has told in various ways throughout his career as a filmmaker. The Limits of Control has been described by Jarmusch as “an action film without action, a suspense film without the drama of suspense.” The film itself is beautifully shot by award winning, Hong-Kong based cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Paranoid Park[2007], 2046[2004], Hero[2002]), and is edited together at a meditatively slow pace. The sound design is as lovely as the perfectly framed Spanish architecture and features the music by Japanese psych/drone ensemble Boris.

Jarmusch puts a surreal and slightly humorous spin on the hitman for hire genre film. The Lone Man’s secret agent contacts (played by Hiam Abbass, Gael García, Paz de la Huerta, Alex Descas, John Hurt, Oscar Jaenada, Youki Kudoh, Tilda Swinton, and Luis Tosar) are caricatures of spies from typical Hollywood films and obviously stick out in the Spanish surroundings. Since this film is after all an assassin flick, one must have a “bad guy” and in this film it is a condescending corporate hegemony (played by Bill Murray) named American.

The Limits of Control is the title of a dated William S. Burroughs essay about language as a mechanism of control. In the context of Jarmusch’s film, the title possess two meanings, the limits of our own self-control and the limits to which people control us. Through the use of repetition, pace and meaningless small talk, Jarmusch demonstrates “La vida no vale nada” (Life is not worth anything). Even the exotic life of a professional killer is reduced to nothing more than a repetitive and boring Sisyphean act. This film pushes us to ask is it possible to overcome this?

– Clint Enns

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~ by cineflyer on August 20, 2009.

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