'The Limits of Control: Special Edition'
(Tilda Swinton, Paz de la Huerta, Isaach De Bankolé, Bill Murray, John Hurt, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2009) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: An enigmatic loner arrives in Spain, instructed to make contact with a series of strangers in different locations throughout the country, each of whom provides a cryptic clue which propels him further towards his mysterious goal.
But who is the Lone Man? Why is he here? And how does the recurring figure of an alluring femme fatale fit into the puzzle?
Blu-ray Verdict: 'The Limits of Control' is a film about spies, interchanging notes in matchbooks, and coded phrases and short monologues about art, music, and film, usually in a café on bright afternoons in Spain.
Isaach De Bankolé plays an all but silent nameless protagonist, who wears a series of matching one color suits; blue, brown, and silver, does tai-chi regularly, and always orders two espressos in separate cups.
He goes to art galleries, and may see a painting of a violin, and then a man will sit down next to him at a café, nervously with a violin, and tell him every instrument contains every song it has ever written.
The two exchange matching match books, of separate colors with "Les Boxer" written in French, and then Bankolé is off again. This mechanism repeats for roughly two hours, as phrases and images repeat and proceed each other through each brief encounter.
There is no exposition, we never learn, who he is, what he is thinking, what the messages or conversations mean, or why he is doing what he does.
I use the word "spy" loosely, because the scope of Bankolé's mission is never revealed, and involves diamonds, assassinations, an ancient guitar, mysterious men in black stuffing people into vans, and Bankolé's refusal to use cellular phones.
It's a postmodern espionage film where the characters don't seek out truth, but communicate in deception and deal in relativity.
Simply put, this film could easily have been classified as a modern day 'Blow-Up,' another existential minimalist thriller, steeped in the fashions, and trends of it's day, only with a sense of humor.
Antonini see's his hipster photographer as morally bankrupt, his spiritual emptiness matching the sparse nature of the film, while Jarmusch's Bankolé is calm absorbing the scenery, practicing tai-chi (as all sound drains from the film, putting the viewer in an even calmer stillness inside him than the one we see in the film).
He doesn't have sex on the job, even when the nude Paz De La Huerta makes repeat visits to his apartment(they platonically sleep together; her nude, he in trademark suit) though his job seems to consist of only waiting, talking, trading, and his not concerned neither with taking a side or seeking revenge.
The opposite of Antonini's tortured artist, is Jarmusch's nonchalant mute hero, "Reality is arbitrary" he tells Bill Murray, known as The American.
The conversations are not random, though we cant know what they multiple meanings they may have for Bankolé, they orbit themes of perception and subjectivity.
Some of the first words of instruction he receives are "Everything is subjective", "The universe has no edges and no center", "Use your skills and your imagination", and the ominous "He who thinks he is bigger than the rest must go to the cemetery for there he will learn what life really is dirt."
These words are translated by a third party because as everyone whom he meets asks him upon first meeting, he doesn't speak Spanish.
With exposition erased, we are shown the first of several layers of perceptual limitations. We can't know what Bankolé's character knows beyond the surface level of meaningless gestures and dialog, but we also can't escape the paranoid shadow that everything no matter how minute has a meaning.
There is a black helicopter that precedes and follows Bankolé throughout the film, but its effect is equally a stifled suspense as it is traditional Jarmuschian deadpan.
When Bankolé sits with Tilda Swinton, in platinum white wig and cowboy hat, she tells him she "... likes it in old movies when people just sit quietly without talking", a double jibe, both at Bankolé's character's stoic calm, and the films own absurd preoccupations with the small details of life.
Later he sees a poster of what looks like a gaillo film with a women dressed just like Swinton. Did she dress to match the poster, or was the poster a sign meant only for him?
In closing, 'The Limits Of Control' is a free-form minimalist poem against the shadow of a paranoid espionage thriller.
It most definitely has a 'Rear Window'-like ratio of concept to action, but at least in Hitchcock's masterpiece you could say Dude, call the police or quit peeping! Movie over!
Likewise you could make an empty statement that this was 'Coffee and Cigarettes,' but longer and without the cigarettes. But that would just be to not see the forest through the trees. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation
Original lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
An American in Europe, a new video interview with Geoff Andrew, author of Stranger Than Paradise: Maverick Film-Makers in Recent American Cinema
The Rituals of Control, a new video essay on the film by author and critic Amy Simmons
Behind Jim Jarmusch, an archival documentary on the making of the film
Untitled Landscapes, an archival featurette showcasing the film's locations
Reversible sleeve featuring two choices of artwork
'The Limits Of Control' Original Movie Trailer