Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Limits Of Control
"Reality is arbitrary"
I have never seen a Jim Jarmusch movie before, although apparently he is known to "create difficult and beard-scratching movies".But this movie was just so freaking beautiful it somehow doesn't matter that it has little or no dialogue, a very sketchy plot and an ending that is akin to waking up from a dream after a night of too much curry and beer. Most people will express boredom at the very least and more often, extreme annoyance when subjected to the retelling of 'that wild dream I had last night', but for myself, I found Jarmusch's reverie compelling and fascinating.
The opening scene, shot from above, is of a man doing minimalist tai chi in a bathroom stall at an airport.This man (Lone Man played seamlessly by Isaach De BankolĂ©) meets with two men in a waiting lounge where he is given a number of instructions, one of which is to use his imagination.I suspect this is Jarmusch's gentle suggestion to the audience, you need to let your imagination run during this movie, the hints are subtle and delicate.It's important to listen to the dialogue, there is no excess or repetition and if you miss something you may find yourself quite lost. 
The Lone Man travels to Madrid, Seville and Almeria, sitting in cafes where he drinks two espressos in two cups and meets his 'contacts'; Violin, Blonde, Molecules, Guitar, all the while dressed in immaculate silk suits and an aura of calm expectation.He lays on beds in apartments and watches the sun rise, listens to the street sounds and refuses sex with the luscious Nude.He hates guns and mobile phones, and spends time not just looking, but somehow absorbing certain paintings. The contacts (a stellar cast that includes TIlda Swinton, John Hurt and Gael Garcia Bernal) trade red or blue colored matchboxes with him, and casually offer up bits of philosophy or personal observations about movies,molecules, and the origin and nature of la boheme.
Visually this movie is lush.Each new location is rich and slightly grainy in texture, the Lone Man's suits iridescent in the Spanish sun, the oblique and changing angles of the tai chi routine all kept me entranced when so little seemed to be happening to further the plot. The gritty and sometimes discordant soundtrack (by Boris) reinforced the chimera-like quality of the whole experience, although Jarmusch is much more linear than, let's say, David Lynch.
I walked out of the theater into a dull, grey afternoon in Leicester Square, bustling with tourists and the babble of at least ten different foreign tongues, feeling as if I had been rudely awakened from one of those deeply mysterious and potent dreams you have during a midday nap.And perhaps that was the case. 


Spender said...

It's nice to read of another's appreciation for Jarmusch. I know that his films are not for everyone but I have loved his work since "Mystery Train" and his odd view of America has always been as refreshing as his films are challenging. I don't know that his latest will find a wide audience but it's good to know that people are seeing and enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

OH MY GOD! if this is the way you write a movie review, i can't wait to read your book reviews! i need to see this now. and get really high. and behave as if tilda swinton is talking directly to me.