In a ruling in Madrid today, Judge Baltasar GarzÃ³n has announced that an inquiry into the Bush administration’s torture policymakers now will proceed to a formal criminal investigation.
— Via The Daily Beast (May 13, 2009).
In one of those peculiar coincidences that Carl Jung liked to call “synchronicities,” Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, The Limits of Control, shows a Dick Cheney-like American (Bill Murray), who resides in a heavily guarded compound, about to receive his just deserts at the hands of a laconic professional known only as Lone Man (Isaach De Bankolé, below). Where is the compound located? In Spain.
The Limits of Control is, among other things, a Spanish travelogue film – in much the same way that Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a Spanish travelogue film. After a couple hours in the theater we feel as if we have spent a brief vacation in a foreign country. The Limits of Control‘s backgrounds of landscape and architecture, beautifully photographed by Christopher Doyle (2046), are more than just backgrounds – they are part of the film’s raison d’etre.
Between contacts, Lone Man visits a Madrid museum. He stands in a room filled with cubist paintings of violins. At a café, his next contact speaks to him of violins and other wooden instruments, and the memories engrained in the wood. Later, the Lone Man stands in a room filled with paintings of nude women. He returns to his hotel room to find a beautiful woman in his bed (Paz de la Huerta) who throughout the film wears nothing but a pair of glasses and – sometimes – a transparent raincoat.
We are not meant to take all this as literal reality. When Lone Man finally meets Bill Murray’s Cheney-like American, the American ticks off a list of each of the topics discussed at Lone Man’s previous encounters: “This art, music, science, hallucination [etc.] has polluted your mind!”
The title, The Limits of Control, while seeming to refer to the self-control of the hired killer, ultimately refers to the arrogance of the American, a very powerful man, who for all of his power, cannot escape his final reckoning.