Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE LIMITS OF CONTROL (Jim Jarmusch, 2009, USA)

“Some of us, we stood in silence
Some bowed their heads and prayed
I think I must’ve picked up a handful of dust
And let it fall over his grave”
-Lucinda Williams

Death is a Lone Man whose classic visage is a Greek tragedy, chiseled from living rock, a deadly Muse whose business is not revenge…but imagination. Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch tests the formal limits of cinema whose invisible boundaries have no center or edges like a crumbling universe, relying on subjective interpretations and opposing trite exposition. Christopher Doyle’s breathtaking cinematography is a character in and of itself, a seemingly tactile element whose texture breathes life into the clay of this lucid dream. This stoic Man With No Name stalks the streets of Spain, meeting incongruous agents and holding clandestine meetings, receiving secret codes via a matchbox with the pugilistic icon of a prizefighter, and ingesting the tiny notes as if the mysterious numbers could attach to his DNA. These desperate characters are artists, bohemians, scientists, musicians, loners on the road to creativity and creation, but oppressed by sullen ideals and seduced by superficial beauty. He shows no emotion as he works, never allowing reprieve from his mysterious task even as a succubus shares his bed…but not his body or mind. Each person he meets hides behind glasses, as if these soulless mirrors deflect rather than reflect the soul. Black helicopters are the ubiquitous antagonists that sting the narrative like deadly wasps, their venomous presence evoking a nuanced dis-ease. The Loner’s strange travels eventually take him to a stronghold in the middle of the desert, where one man is a castle unto himself, surrounded by powerful men in black and under constant surveillance: a man whose self importance will lead him to the grave. We hear the punctuation of an electronic code as this weary Capitalist enters his soundproof office, and suddenly the barely glimpsed numbers on minute paper notes makes sense: each conspirator adding their own numerical sequence to Death’s final equation. The musical scales balance, a guitar string holding its eternal note. The killer finally transforms, changing from his suave suite to casual attire, like the Reaper peeling away his robes to reveal an average man, again entering the World nameless and alone. Rimbaud’s freethinking introduction mirrors Jarmusch’s cinematic mantra: No limits. No control. (B+)

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