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Sunday, 20 June 2010

Arthouse director Jim Jarmusch's 2009 The Limits of Control is a cool crime thriller that intrigues as it exasperates. Set in Spain, it uses a series of curious, repetitious moves by a Lone Man (Isaach de Bankole) as he moves through the urban and rural landscapes.

The Lone Man has been tasked with something mysterious by two men in an airport lounge, and while we're left guessing what it is he's supposed to do until near the end, we're never bored by the action even though the same things are done time and time again.

The camera work is so good that we don't mind the enigmas that surround the Lone Man's progress from high-rise tower to suburban flat to a delapidated house nestled among the dry hills of the country's outback. At each step, he goes through the same motions.

The two cups of coffee, the "boxing man" matchboxes, the tiny notes scribbled with numbers, the men and women carrying musical instruments - these props for the drama carry a weight but are not ponderous. Similarly, the Lone Man's shiny suits, his exercises, and his tight-lipped dedication to his pursuit are never dulled by over-exposure. Mystery is omni-present but not overwrought.

With appearances by such marquee actors as Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and John Hurt, there's added drama in the filmic presence Jarmusch is intent on creating. Brief discussions about movies and modes of representation add a postmodern delight that fails to overshadow the film's main thrust toward its denouement.

This curious and seriously underexposed film should stand the test of time. Its cinematography is so good that, ten or twenty years from now, it will be able to withstand scrutiny by the most demanding viewer. Highly recommended.

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