The Limits of Control

I love Jim Jarmusch. So I was delighted to be able to see his latest film, The Limits of Control, and write a review for Christianity Today. The film is a strange one, to be sure. It's like Lost in Translation meets Inland Empire, with a dose of 60s-inspired critical theory thrown in. It's made by and for hipsters, so expect a lot of ambiguity, ambient Japanese rock music, and Bill Murray (actually, just a little Bill Murray).

Anyway, you can read my full review here, of which the following is a brief excerpt:

Most of Jarmusch's films include a hodgepodge of characters of different backgrounds, ethnicities and perspectives who are brought together for a time to sort of see what transpires when they interact. This is pretty much what Coffee and Cigarettes was about, and it's what Control is about too. Lone Man has one-scene encounters with all sorts of great actors: Bill Murray, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, and the scene-stealing Tilda Swinton, looking very much like a hipster/albino riff on the White Witch. None of these encounters have much if anything to do with each other, but each offers a compelling momentary glimpse at the details of people, their mannerisms, and how they communicate. What they say to each other is mostly random and/or indecipherably cryptic, but no matter: it's still interesting to hear them talk.

Many viewers are likely to see this all as a disposable hipster indulgence. But in my opinion, what this film lacks in narrative coherence and conventional entertainment value, it makes up for in its expert craftsmanship and acute attention to sensory, material detail. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Paranoid Park, In the Mood for Love) is definitely the film's best aesthetic asset. You've never seen a plate of sliced pears look so beautiful. The overall look of the film—with Picasso-esque angular lines and fragmentary cutting—certainly fits its deconstructionist theme. Nothing is definite in the film, and most images are shot from multiple angles and distances. There are also several things in the film—city vistas, buildings, human forms—that are seen both in "reality" and also in subjective "artistic" form. Lone Man makes a habit of visiting Madrid's Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, where he stands in front of a painting of something that later in the film he sees in person (or vice versa). (Read the rest...)