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April 27, 2009


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Tony Dayoub


I am so excited to see this picture. This film's trailer seems to evoke Jarmusch's Ghost Dog and/or Dead Man. Maybe it's the subversion of the genre hero iconography, but somehow I think it's something more that I'm subliminally picking up on. Like the way the Lone Man "betrays no emotion or beffudlement when Creole begins mixing philosophical aphorisms with his directives." That characteriation of Creole reminds me of DeBankolé's Ice Cream Man in Ghost Dog.

Am I way off-base with this speculation?


Isn't Paz de la Huerta an American citizen? I think her father is Spanish but she was born and raised in NYC.

Glenn Kenny

@ Bilge: Ach! Don't know it for a fact, but I guess it would follow.Corrected. I suppose I was thinking of her as the embodiment of a universal principle...which she definitely is...

@Tony: Yes, there's certainly an affinity there, although in the current film the effect is not quite as comic.

Keith Uhlich

I'm really rarin' to see the film again, so maybe we can go to a screening together, Glenn, and ponder it. From your thoughts above, I think there'd be a lot to say. Based on the first view, my own favorite scene is the flamenco bar interlude: very Rivette-like in the way it focuses on a rehearsal as opposed to an officially sanctioned performance.


Count me in as another Jarmusch fan and The Limits of Control looks great--I'm even more excited after reading your post about the film, Glenn! If it opens May 1 I shall have to check it out, as I'll be in NYC in early May and I doubt Vancouver will be getting the film until at least Fall.

Ryan Kelly

What a pleasurable read, the way you combine the analytical with your usual casual, amicable writing style always makes for a fun read.

And you've got me interested. Anyone know where it's gonna be playing in NYC?

Pete Segall

Ryan - the film plays at the Angelika. I have wretched memories of folks there giggling through Ghost Dog in all the wrong parts.


We need more filmmakers like Jarmusch in America. We won't get any, of course.


I've heard so many bad things about the Angelika in my online research of NYC cinemas--oh well, it can't be worse than sitting in a theatre full of Alberta rednecks laughing through a rare print of Psycho!



I'll see you your rednecks and raise you a gaggle of annoying teenagers texting their way through "The Red Shoes" at the Brattle here in Boston.

Although it was made pleasantly surreal by the inexplicable presence of lots of punks (as in, kids clinging to the '80s iconography, they weren't punks in the pejorative sense).

Ryan Kelly

Worst ever repertory experience: Blade Runner at the Ziegfeld. A lot of poseurs who expected something other than the thoughtful film that unfolded before them, and were not happy at the pace of the film (which, while far from breakneck, certainly is never boring). It was unpleasant.


Dan -

"I'll see you your rednecks and raise you a gaggle of annoying teenagers texting their way through "The Red Shoes" at the Brattle here in Boston."

What were they even DOING there?


Hey Glenn,

I can't wait to see "Limits of Control" this weekend. The fact that both you and Hoberman liked it is enough for me. Did you see Rex Reed's assessment? He said:

'This is an empty, boring sedative by Jim Jarmusch, a writer-director with not enough talent to be either.'

To recap, this is the man who once described the viewing of "Memoirs of a Geisha" as being smacked by the wind from a butterfly's wing, or some such thing.

Hoberman said he thought it was Jarmusch's best since "Dead Man." You agree?



I'm assuming it was a dance class or something, or a film professor required them to go. On the bright side, it was a print in very good shape, and I realized I must have seen it on a crappy TV, because I thought it was black and white!


And now this from Armond White:

"Jim Jarmsuch has been responsible for many of the dullest hours ever spent at the movies. His new The Limits of Control is no different."

I think another Glenn Kenny takedown of several of our fine city's critics might be in order. Granted, I haven't seen the film yet, but the fact that both White and Rex Reed make it a point not only to dismiss "Limits," but also Jarmusch's collective body of work, makes my blood boil a little. Reed essentially insinuates that Jarmusch has "no talent," while White calls him boring. To quote Chevy Chase in "National Lampoon's Vacation":

"You know what I think? I think you're all fucked in the head."


And now Ebert weighs in. I wish him Godspeed and good health, and I may not even like this film when I get a chance to see it (though I'm a big Jarmusch fan), but Ebert's dismissive and gimmicky review is kind of obnoxious:


Glenn Kenny

Yes, it is, Bill. And tiresome, too. And not a tenth as clever as he probably thinks itis.

Ellen Kirby

Regarding cringe-inducing screening experiences: Seattle has a rep as pretty wise and smart movie town, with a fair amount of justification...but there's also a certain smug cluelessness that turns up from time to time. Way back in the early 80s I had my first viewing of "The Killing" ruined for me by a little group in the middle of the theater - they thought the dialogue was the stupidest/funniest stuff they'd ever heard, and by about midpoint in the film they'd managed to infect most of the rest of the audience. Made me so mad I didn't stay for the second feature, "Lolita."


I wish I saw in it what you do. I was excited for it anyway, and glad to see you enjoyed it so much, but then there was kind of a critical avalanche of negative reviews that started popping up, Ebert's half-star being the most concrete image of the consensus, and I have a feeling that may have colored how I saw the film.

I think perhaps it would have worked better as a book of photographs, perhaps with a cd included. I would hesitate to even call it a film. I like Bankole a lot but there's nothing going on with him the entire film. I don't blame him really, but especially in contrast with Bill Murray's gust of energy at the end, he's so blank and it's hard to stay interested in a blank face doing the same things over and over, not speaking, not emoting for an hour and a half. Murray, while not physically right for the role, I think would have been interesting to watch for that period of time, or Hurt, or Bernal, or Swinton, or the wasted Hiam Abbas.

It seems like Jarmusch used Bankole here as another aspect of his design, his angular, but beautiful features, and toned body fill a shiny suit well, integrate with the architecture well, but the effect is not interesting, he just blends in.

I admire the images, the locations, the actors, the music, but there's nothing to grab onto here. I understand Broken Flowers is a little more commercial, but even in that film the silences and blankness served a purpose and were interesting atmosphere that weaved throughout the film. It's as if with this one, Jarmusch cut out all the funny, interesting, compelling dialogue and just kept those silences and the blankness. What you end up with a film that becomes tedious, and is deeply unsatisfying by the end of it.

What did you feel at the end of it, Glen?

Re Bad Screenings:
Any David Lynch movie with a full theater is a cringe-inducing experience. Self-satisfied laughs at things that make them uncomfortable to communicate to those around them that "I get it, I totally get it."

Glenn Kenny

@Nick: I felt exhilarated, delighted. And the more I pondered the picture, the more enjoyment I felt. What I initially took for some sort of political prescription got much deeper.


Even with my massive reservations, it's stuck in my mind like few other films, and it's something I'll probably need to see again on a big screen. Perhaps expectations of what Jarmusch is got in the way. It's a film that cannot be easily forgotten, at the very least.


Just saw it and loved the film, deeply. One of my BEST experiences at the Angelica was during the first week "Ghost Dog" was released. The print they screened did not have the subtitles for De Bankole's Raymond character. He would go on chatting/ranting in French as Whitaker would just nod in comprehension. I thought it was ballsy for Jarmusch NOT subtitle those short passages.

That day, the distributor took out ads to apologize for the error and anyone holding a stub from that first week could go back later and see a subtitled print. I went back later but kinda dug the missing subtitled version more.

Kimberly Lindbergs

"Some also don't like the use of a Rimbaud quote at the film's beginning, because apparently now Rimbaud is only for undergrads. Jesus."

What the hell is that all about? When did quoting Rimbaud suddenly become a bad thing? I've seen snarky comments about the Rimbaud quote used in the film that just confuse the hell out of me. Maybe I'm just too old to find it "pretentious." As my 41st birthday approaches I'm finding the use of the word "pretentious" just plain pretentious.

I found my way here because I've been hunting around online for positive reviews of the film and yours is the best I've come across so far (along with J. Hoberman's review). I recently watched Limits of Control (so mad I missed its theatrical release!) and it's probably my favorite film of 2009 but I was really surprised and finally appalled by the negative critical reception it received. I think it's easily Jarmusch's best film since Dead Man. Glad to see it made your "best of 2009" list as well.

Chris Noble

I've been reading your blog for some months, and I avoided this review until I had a chance to see the film... and am not only pleasantly surprised by how well I think you nail the movie down, but shocked at how few good reviews the film got.

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