It is from time to time the case that a deliberately pretentious film snob such as myself may emphatically defend a film for its ambitions, for its aspirations to discuss cinema, or even for its accidents and failures, and casually wash away its alienating disagreeability in doing so. I am not, frankly, sure that Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control applies here, although I am about to emphatically defend it for all of the above. I am not quite sure it says anything about cinema, however, so much as it says something about Jim Jarmusch, and about nothingness. Watching it is an experience in willful alienation, an auteur constructing a film for his own interest more than anyone else’s. It is a peculiar, obtuse curiosity. It is also an important one, although not necessarily for its ambitions.
Largely because, depending upon your view of the film, it may be either the very definition of “ambition” or its very antithesis, which is the central dialectic around which The Limits of Control circles. Jarmusch is just about the most willfully difficult English-language filmmaker working today, and The Limits of Control may be his most distant film. It boasts none of the playful cryptic diabolicalism of something like his masterpiece Dead Man, a disassembly of the Western genre and all fiction at a core structural level. The Western as social theater, it was, and his aesthetically sensuous films have followed suit until then. Decconstructive aesthetic, sure, but aesthetic nonetheless. Continue reading