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First thing’s first: The Limits of Control is not a movie. It’s a meditation. Defying most typical cinematic conventions such as pacing, plot and character development. And while I did see this at an AMC theatre in a typical North American Mall in Montreal, The Limits of Control would not feel out of place if I had gone to see it at say, The Museum of Modern Art.

If that preface sounds like a risk, then you’ll be seeing it at your own risk. If not, read further.


In his near thirty-year career of filmmaking, the prematurely grey Godfather of Hip-Cinema,  Jim Jarmusch , has come up with a new film that consolidates all of his familiar elements, while quietly subverting them at the same time. Which is something I frankly didn’t think possible.   

The Limits Of Control stars Isaach De Bankolé (from such other films as Casino Royale as well as Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog and Coffee and Cigarettes) as the silent criminal in Spain on a mission that has something to do with diamonds as well as placing a hit on someone.  The only thing we can say for certain about him is that he is an insomniac who likes classical music, tai chi and has a penchant for ordering two single espressos at the same time. 

If I don’t bother to recount the rest of the plot, it’s because plot really isn’t the point. Things gradually happen in a very hallucinatory way. This is amplified by the excellent grainy cinematography. And yet this film is not so much about plot or narrative or anything traditional as it is breaking down those structures for art’s sake. Or just for the sake of it. I’m not sure which. It’s best left up to the viewer to discuss. Most likely over merlot or imported beer at an ironic bar downtown. 

In place are the usual Jarmusch themes: alienation, language barriers, pseudo-mystical ramblings, the close examination and revamping of pop and subcultures (art, film noir and music in the former case, and drugs in the latter) as well as coffee.  And though the film is set entirely in Spain which may be Jarmusch’s first entirely foreign setting piece, it is still distinctly American anyway.

There is also the standard Jarmusch (Jarmuschian?) offbeat sense of humor, as evidenced by two baffling cameo appearances by Tilda Swinton (looking like  Edgar Winter)and Bill Murray playing against type as a Rich Powerful Asshole.

And it has an awesome soundtrack, with most contributions by Japanese stoner-sludge metal band Boris, who turn in a unsettling ambient set here. The overall feeling is so complimentary it makes me realize what a sham Quentin Tarantino is when it comes to that stuff. This soundtrack isn’t from famous people. It’s not a obvious mood-setting vehicle for the imaginary-challenged.  And because of that the songs resonate with the imagery in a way that is way less superficial and work that much harder to evoke a mood, rather than worry about how great it sounds as an iTunes playlist. 

So to sum up The Limits of Control:  Star Trek it ain’t. But depending on what you’re looking for, it might be better. 

Check out the trailer right here.

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