Posted tagged ‘Jim Jarmusch’

Don’t Call It “Quirky”: Jim Jarmusch hashes out The Limits of Control with YFF

May 4, 2009


Both devotees and the merely curious gathered last Thursday, April 30 for the Young Friends of Film special event “An Evening with Jim Jarmusch.” The event boasted a chat & reception with Jarmusch following the screening of his new film The Limits of ControlFilm Comment editor Gavin Smith issued an ominous yet invigorating disclaimer that the film was zealously dividing the critical legions, but proudly forecasted it to be a personal Top Ten of 2009 entry.

Jarmusch is an indie icon due to his highly-regarded oeuvre, as well as his distinctive white-maned guise and a uniquely droll, delicately precise mode of articulation that has made him a go-to talking head for profiles and documentaries. Suffice to say, he’s a prized raconteur with much to share. Things got to a befitting start as Jarmusch declared, “This is the first real audience for the film,” before quipping, “that is, if you are real.”

Jarmusch unconventionally opened with a confessional of the semi-cosmic deliberations haunting him as of late. Like the film itself—laden with  endless variations of cryptic passages, exchanges, and codes—he returned time and again to the power of the “imagination” and its transcendent ability to decontextualize information, all the while mischievously noting, “this doesn’t necessarily relate to the film.” The discussion conformed with his continual quest to find new ways of conveying meaning outside of conventional narrative tropes. The film, ultimately,  “was an exercise in celebrating a love of cinema and what it is capable of.”

When Smith insistently questioned the political critique inherent in his recent films, highlighted by Murray’s Dick Cheney evocations in Control, Jarmusch semi-jokingly replied “I’d rather talk about Pythagoras.” While he conceded, “It was a real drag in the last ten years telling foreign cab drivers I was Canadian,” and reinforced the Dead Man-reminiscent stance that “America was founded on genocide,” Jarmusch remained weary of didactic messages, insisting his films are grounded in metaphor.

The audience was refreshingly uninclined to ask for cut-and-dry explanations, instead throwing out suggestions for extrapolation. Jarmusch expressed extreme admiration for his DP Christopher Doyle (“For every two ideas, he has a hundred.”), regular performers Bill Murray (“He’s just so human. I am moved by how observant and empathetic he is.”) & Tilda Swinton (“I just want to layer more and more preposterous wigs and disguises on her… One day I asked her to marry me.”), and film scorers Boris (“Their music is very cinematic, atmospheric. Music nurtures my creativity process.”). He discussed the intuitive rhythm he and longtime collaborator/editor Jay Rabinowitz worked to create, and displayed a surprisingly optimistic attitude towards the You Tube age, celebrating the beauty of “free information.”

Jarmusch’s frantic request for three more questions after Smith announced “We’ve got time for one more,” revealed a charmingly superstitious nature, a formalist sensibility much like his filmmaking, and an eagerness to engage his audience. He proved receptive to the inevitable non-questions, welcoming interpretations of the film, insisting, like the mantras of its characters, that subjectivity is the name of the game. His only expressed hostilities were towards the descriptor feared by all serious-minded independent directors: “quirky.”

Attendees were invited to a reception in the Walter Reade lobby; the clamoring throngs accumulated not around the free alcohol but the special guest, who went beyond gentlemanly courtesy, genuinely engaging each inquiring mind. “Elvis has left the building, time to go home,” chaperone Smith chuckled, but a lobby exit revealed that Jarmusch had merely retreated outside for his trademark nicotine indulgence, continuing to hold court with enthusiasts waiting in the wings.  Walter Reade’s newly designated smoking area rules were left graciously unenforced.

-Brynn White

Stranger Than Spycraft: Jim Jarmusch’s Limits of Control

April 29, 2009


“No guns, no mobiles, no sex. How can you stand it?”

This is the question asked by a very naked, very attractive Paz De La Huerta as she lies in bed pointing a gun at “Lone Man” (Isaach De Bankole).

(For context, the previous question she asked him was, “Do you like my ass?”, his reply: “Yes.”)

His reply to this question is given in a cut to him lying awake, fully clothed, while the fully naked Ms. De La Huerta lies next.

And thus the bed is made, literally or figuratively, for Jim Jarmusch’s “The Limits of Control,” a crafty satire so on edge you might just miss the comedy of it all.

The story–if there is much of one–follows Lone Man as he weaves his way through provincial Spain, discovering various characters (i.e: an umbrella-toting Tilda Swinton) and also includes a lot of match-boxes and something about diamonds somewhere and a conspiracy.

Knowing Mr. Jarmusch, you might also suspect the presence of both coffee and cigarettes, and be sated, for they are in the film in profusion.

And even though, as I said, there’s something of a conspiracy afoot (involving diamonds, remember?) and maybe some existential philosophy, what we really do for most of the movie is see what Lone Man is seeing and then stare, shot after shot, into his face.

This would be a more onerous task if Mr. De Bankole did not have such an interesting face. Indeed, Mr. Jarmusch (after pronouncing me a “lowlife”) claimed that the movie was written for him and that it would not exist without him. And Mr. De Bankole is indeed an actor of some great talent, as can be seen clearly in Lars Von Trier’s “Manderlay”, though American audiences may know him better from “24.” We hold on Lone Man in many shots of doing Tai Chi, of staring at a matchbox, of memorizing directions on small pieces of paper and then eating them (I was glad I had popcorn). It holds together because Mr. De Bankole is facinating in his motions, in the interesting lop-sidedness and angularity of his body (something mirrored somewhat by Ms. De La Huerta).

But didn’t I mention in the beginning that this was a satire? Indeed it is, though it might take you a while to catch on. What we are seeing here, is the inverse of Bond movie, round in all the places those films are sharp and vice-versa. Rather the frenetic pacing of a film like Casino Royale (which Mr. De Bankole was also in), we are given a lot of time with nothing at all. Rather than a bunch of high-tech gadgetry, we are given a spy who hates mobile phones. Rather than a polished, British-ized, anesthetized hero, we are given the distinct-looking Lone Man. Our arch-villain–none other than Bill Murray–tries to spout a bunch of nonsense about changing the world, where previously he was calling for a latte. Our hero’s greeting phrase for god-sakes is an acknowledgment that he can’t speak Spanish. What kind of International Man of Mystery is this?

Perhaps the most sublime moment of comedy comes from Ms. De La Huerta who greets Lone Man wearing nothing through a see-through plastic vest.

“Do you like my new raincoat?” she asks.

I guess that’s no more blunt than naming someone “Pussy Galore.”

Mr. Jarmusch has experimented with genre before, with the hip-hop/samurai-tale “Ghost Dog” and the concert film “Year of the Horse”, but here he tries a spin at comedy with sleek syle and gets somewhere, I think.

I discussed it with friends later.

“Well, it’s kind of like, you know Scary Movie and Epic Movie and all that stuff? Well, it’s kind of like if someone hired Jim Jarmusch to make Spy Movie.”

“But in a good way.”

“Yeah, in a good way.”


-Nicholas Feitel, Contributing Editor

“The Limits of Control” plays on Thursday April 30th at the Walter Reade with a Conversation with Jim Jarmusch to follow, part of FSLC’s Young Friends of Film Program.

Favorite Jim Jarmusch moments (The Limits of Control screens Thursday 4/30 with filmmaker Q & A!)

April 22, 2009

Set in the striking and varied landscapes of contemporary Spain (both urban and otherwise), shot by acclaimed cinematography Christopher Doyle, and featuring music by cult Japanese psychedelic metal band Boris, Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control is the story of a mysterious loner (played by Isaach De Bankolé) whose activities remain meticulously outside the law. And it’s screening Thursday, April 30 at the Film Society, with an onstage Q & A with the filmmaker and party afterward!

In honor of this highly anticipated new film, we reached out to a Jim Jarmusch expert to take us through some of his more notable cinematic moments. We found Brynn White, a Film Comment contributor and Film Forum repertory programming assistant. Below are her picks and commentary.


BW: A visiting Hungarian gets a taste of ”America” (and its TV dinners) from the confines of her hangdog cousin’s Lower East Side apartment in Jarmusch’s revolutionary evocation of the profoundly mundane. The formalist camera remains as consistently heavy-lidded and immobile as its central trio of deadpan hipster-vaudevillians.


BW: A bayou-set jailbreak fable… but the bona fide liberation occurs early on as cellmates John Lurie and Tom Waits abandon their scowlful posturing and ego-bumping when anachronistic clown Roberto Benigni makes a rapturous selection from his ledger of American pop culture discoveries.


BW: Johnny Depp rides the purgatory rails to the end of the line in Jarmusch’s sublime Western fever dream. Neil Young’s abrasive rhapsodies punctuate an exposition so simultaneously unsettling and gleeful that Crispin Glover seems a natural byproduct.


BW: The adroit capstone of Jarmusch’s mix tape paean to the last great tabletop democracy: former Warhol-superstar Taylor Mead, a sort of Noel Coward of the New York underground, whimsically ruminates on life in its twilight stage.

ADDED BONUS: afro and denim vest-clad Lou Reed extemporizes on NYC and nicotine, while Jarmusch drolly ponders his priorities regarding sex & cigarettes and celluloid Nazis’ smoking techniques in Paul Auster and Wayne Wang’s Blue in the Face.

You can read more of Brynn White’s writing at Stop Smiling.

An evening with Jim Jarmusch and screening of The Limits of Control is a co-presentation of Young Friends of Film and Film Comment Selects. Admission includes the screening, a Q & A and party with open bar afterward. You can buy tickets here.

From the archives: The New York Film Festival from A-Z

September 8, 2008

Just a tiny sampling of the films that have played during the festival’s four decade-long history.

A: About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, USA, 2002) – NYFF40 (2002)

B: The Belly of an Architect (Peter Greenaway, UK/Italy, 1987) – NYFF25 (1987)

C: Chloe in the Afternoon (Eric Rohmer, France, 1972) – NYFF10 (1972)

D: Down By Law (Jim Jarmusch, USA, 1986) – NYFF24 (1986)

E: Exotica (Atom Egoyan, Canada, 1994) – NYFF32 (1994)

F: The Fog of War (Errol Morris, USA, 2003) – NYFF41 (2003)

G: The Great City (Satyajit Ray, India, 1963)

H: Harlan County U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple, USA, 1976)

I: In the Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong 2000)

J: Julien Donkey-Boy (Harmony Korine, USA, 1999)

K: Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, USA, 1982)

L: Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy/France, 1972)

M: My Name is Joe (Ken Loach, UK, 1998)

N: No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, US, 2007)

O: An Old Fashioned Woman (Martha Coolidge, USA, 1974)

P: Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronaud, France, 2007)

Q: Quilts in Women’s Lives (Pat Ferrero, USA)

R: The Ritual (Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1969)

S: Salaam Bombay! (Mira Nair, India, 1987)

T: The Trial of Joan of Arc (Robert Bresson, France, 1962)

U: Underground (Emir Kusturica, France/Germany, 1995)

V: Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, UK, 2004)

W: Washington Square (Agnieszka Holland, USA, 1997)

X: Xala (Ousmane Sembene, Senegal, 1974)

Y: Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, Mexico, 2001) – NYFF39 (2001)

Z: Zebrahead (Anthony Drazan, USA, 1992)

Find your favorites.

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