As a Jim Jarmusch fan, this was a huge let down for me. In the past I’ve loved the long takes, the little dialogue, and the overall slow pace of his films, but he takes it to a whole new level on this one. It’s borderline unwatchable, completely pretentious and indulgent, and even the philosophical musings on the power of imagination aren’t that interesting, let alone worthy of their own feature film. Having said that, it does have its share of ups, notably the score by the Japanese rock trio Boris, which is one of the best I’ve heard this year. The cinematography is also beautiful, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that this movie has no soul and contains mostly just pseudo-intellectual ramblings. BOO.
While I understand the frustration people have with the pacing and content of The Limits of Control, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Perhaps it is because it came across as more of an installation — an exploration of space and time — rather than a narrative film. The cinematography and pacing of the film create a purely aesthetic experience. The carefully crafted, beautiful, lengthy shots create a sort of meditative atmosphere, which the score adds to, and the repetitive visual elements (hotel room, cafe, two espresso, match box) give you patterns to follow throughout the film. If anything I would argue that the film would be better without a plot at all (there is barely one as it is), but I can see how the, as Mangold puts it, “pseudo-intellectual ramblings” add to the meditative, contemplative nature of the film, even if they are a little pretentious.
Having seen nearly all of Jarmusch’s films, I found this an interesting development of his style. Most of his films are made up of a repetition of scenes, shots, situations and objects, and while most of them use this to further the plot, The Limits of Control developed it into a purely aesthetic experience. Vagueness is a major component of his characters and story lines, and the characters in The Limits of Control epitomize this sort of ambiguity. While it may have frustrated many people, the ending was one of my favorite parts of the film. Jarmusch frequently leaves out important plot points — disrupting the narrative flow (namely Down By Law, in which he skips over the entire prison break, which would have been the climactic event of the film). In The Limits of Control Jarmusch entirely omits the climax of the film — the entire film he has been getting clues for his mission, and when he finally gets within reach of the final goal, it jumps to the end, without any explanation whatsoever of how he got inside of the building.
Throughout his career Jarmusch (with apparent influence of the No Wave Cinema movement) has attempted to subvert many narrative film traditions, and like many filmmakers (I could draw many comparisons to Kiarostami), he seems to be moving into the art world. While this film had its weak points (mainly narrative and dialogue), there were many strong aspects, and I am interested to see if he moves further into the art world, or if he goes back to narrative filmmaking.