The lim­its of pa­tience

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE LIM­ITS OF CON­TROL Di­rected by Jim Jar­musch. Star­ring Isaach De Bankolé, Gael Gar­cía Ber­nal, Paz de la Huerta, Alex Descas, John Hurt, Youki Ku­doh, Bill Mur­ray, Tilda Swin­ton, Hiam Ab­bass Club, Queen’s, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 115 min

NOT FOR the first time, the great Jim Jar­musch has de­liv­ered a film that has a lot to do with rit­ual. Ev­ery­where Isaach De Bankolé’s silk-suited vil­lain treads – and he gets around a bit – he goes through the same se­ries of in­ti­mate ges­tures and so­cial rites.

Most ev­ery­body De Bankolé en­coun­ters, re­spond­ing to his calls as a con­gre­ga­tion re­sponds to a priest, ap­pears to be part of the same ob­scure cult. He prac­tices tai chi. He or­ders two espres­sos in sep­a­rate cups. Then some queerly fa­mil­iar fig­ure – it might by John Hurt in a rain­coat or Tilda Swin­ton in a cow­boy hat – wan­ders up to the pro­tag­o­nist and con­firms that he doesn’t speak Span­ish. They then talk about art, movies or death and, af­ter ex­chang­ing match­boxes, go their sep­a­rate ways.

One sus­pects that screen­ings of the film will be ac­com­pa­nied by fur­ther rigidly it­er­ated ac­tions from audiences. At the 20-minute mark a sigh­ing will rise up. Af­ter 40 min­utes, the con­gre­ga­tion will emit gut­tural groan­ing. Then, some way into the sec­ond hour, the cin­ema will echo to the sound of seats spring­ing back to the upright po­si­tion. This is not to say that The Lim­its

of Con­trol is de­void of beau­ti­ful, se­duc­tive stretches. Shot by the peren­ni­ally imag­i­na­tive Christo­pher Doyle, the pic­ture draws flak­ing golds and dusty tans from the bak­ing Span­ish lo­ca­tions. Cer­tain scenes ap­pear to be funny on pur­pose and the sum­mon­ing up of cin­e­matic ghosts will en­gage ded­i­cated movie­go­ers. (Is the mys­te­ri­ous naked girl the rein­car­na­tion of Brigitte Bar­dot in Le Mépris or a killer babe from a 1960s spy spoof?)

Yet it’s hard to es­cape the sus­pi­cion that Jar­musch is now con­sciously toy­ing with the pa­tience of his loyal fan-base. “So, how much stu­pe­fy­ing sta­sis will you al­low me?” he seems to ask.

The di­rec­tor has, in gems such as Dead Man and Stranger Than

Par­adise, long en­joyed ex­per­i­ment­ing with beau­ti­ful in­ac­tiv­ity. But one al­ways felt that, though they may shield them­selves, his char­ac­ters had com­plex in­ner lives. In this re­lent­lessly arid ex­er­cise, the par­tic­i­pants – hardly char­ac­ters – seem like chess pieces be­ing nudged to­wards an in­evitable, bor­ing stale­mate. For Jar­musch com­pletists only.

Tilda Swin­ton joins the Jar­musch pa­rade of enig­matic luvvies

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