Because the reflection we see in the mirror is not what others see of us!
I guess the obvious comparison for this film has to be “Ghost Dog”, which is much better. I had a problem with the repetition in “Limits”. It was too on the nose and didn’t weave a rich cultural tapestry like his usual thematic repetitions.
Saw this last night, absolutely loved it. I think it helped that I once read on MUBI that it was about the creative process — the complexity of it, the way it’s a dialectic of randomness and productive destruction and self-critique. With that in mind, the whole film seemed to gel into something mysterious but perfectly self-consistent. It also helped that I knew its reputation for being opaque, baffling, and self-important… I was prepared to face these sensibilities head-on. What I found was a film that was certainly oblique, multifaceted, but also crystal-clear, hypnotic, and surprisingly engrossing.
If you don’t look at the characters as symbols fitting into a structure, you won’t get anything out of it. The Lone Man represented the creative sensibility as a defiant, impassive, receptive force. You could see him as the subconscious, rising up to destroy the inhibitions of the ego. This is too simple, though… the Lone Man wasn’t just the “subconscious,” he was intuition, the artist’s impulse, the expressive voice, which is simultaneously creative and destructive.
The American (Bill Murray) was, as many here have said, the controlling power of hegemony. The conscious mind, the “realist,” the aspect that attains and retains power by writing off anything outside its comfort zone. He was the great philistine who controls mass culture, and who also exists within each individual, telling them to back off, not to bother, to obey their anxieties and inhibitions. The ultimate goal of art — of the creative spirit — is to break free of the overwhelming control exerted by this Bill Murray.
The other important archetype here was The Nude (good ol’ Paz, playing her naked self). She embodied Desire, which is both an aid and a distraction to the creative impulse. She’s the id: she’s got her gun, her mobile phone, her naked antics. She’s hot for you and impulsively craves your attention, but all she really demands are the end results: the indulgence, the diamonds, the gratification. Nonetheless, she is an inextricable part of the artist’s ethos.
I’m not attempting to offer an authoritative, closed reading of the film… I know that these puzzle pieces fit together in certain ways, but are loose and disarrayed in others. I didn’t even try to comment on the political subtexts, or on the meanings of the the landmark characters he meets along the way, or on the tiered series of cities he passes through. Still, seeing it as the journey of an artist through their troubled creative process gave me a good starting point to begin penetrating the film’s symbols and specters, which are legion.
I know that these puzzle pieces fit together in certain ways, but are loose and disarrayed in others.
= multilayered Art
controlling power of hegemony = the hive-mind
I liked it.
This thread’s from back in the day, eh? People took it as a personal affront that Jarmusch is playing around with the subjectivity of art and riffing a sort of absurdist parallel universe out of it, because that’s not ‘deep enough’ or whatever.
Anyway this is Jarmusch’s ‘thing’: characters speaking in ironic platitudes, formal reconstructions of Jarmusch’s influences and interests, and Bill Murray so that HOPEFULLY
YOU PEOPLE WON’T
TAKE IT TOO GODDAMNED SERIOUSLY.
But you know, he’s pretentious because he actually enjoys ‘bohemian’ culture. Boo on him for liking a fedora.
“Every speaking character aside from the assassin represents an aspect of the Humanities, and the villain obviously represents Capitalism.
So Arts and Sciences destroying Capitalism is what this film is all about."
Pretty much what I got from it, assuming that the Spain the Lone Man traversed was the self-same ‘virtual reality’ The Man was in control of, generated out of a general art-structured parallel.
It’s either a really smart film, or a really dumb and obvious one.
I don’t believe it can be as easily dismissed as some make it out to be though, simply because it’s very well made for what it is, and it was a huge risk after the success of ‘Broken Flowers’.
I don’t think it’s a really smart film but it’s not a really dumb and obvious one. It had me going for a while, until Murray’s speech at the end. Perhaps I’m latching too much onto the ‘virtual reality’ part of his statement but clearly no character in the entire movie treats this movie as real life. As such, we are free to throw the rules of real life out the window and enjoy what’s given to us instead.
I mean, everything is so aestheticized. I’ve traveled, the world isn’t that pretty. I like to think that it’s aesethicized because the narrative of this movie takes place inside a piece of art, which could be a musical composition or a painting or a flamenco dance, but just happens to be a movie.
^not sure, i don’t think there is much room for an in between position with The Limits Of Control, even though i occupy it myself.
It was extremely divisive.
Why? It was fun!
Again, I’ve never been able to really take Jarmusch’s platitude dialogs seriously along the line of “this character actually believes it and represents my own views.” It’s not like Coffee and Cigarettes are about how brilliant coffee drinkers and cigarette smokers are. So in that same mode, from what I see in this thread, people are taking the platitudes of the characters too seriously. Their statements fall on deaf ears — the Lone Man is only trying to move forward. They all seem to reach out to talk to him because they enjoy just talking — but he’s on a mission. If we take those parts for the whole, keeping in mind that we never see ‘the big picture’, really this is a remake of Coffee and Cigarettes a la David Lynch: half dream, half “well why the hell not, we’ve already set this universe so let’s explore it.”
So I wouldn’t say it’s ‘really smart’ because it’s a movie set in the world created by the people who like to talk platitudes over two expressos in separate cups. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘really dumb and obvious’ because it’s set in that world, so isn’t really trying to make some larger Big Thought but enjoy the landscape created by those sorts of thoughts. Because it’s different than a traditional narrative film, people are assuming it has SOMETHING TO SAY, or that the symbols all have meaning, and if it doesn’t have SOMETHING TO SAY, then people are assuming that it’s empty at center. Why can’t it just be as it is?
This is what’s really frustrating to me about the movie world. Whimsy is one of my favorite things in movies, and it’s detested by the mainstream for being weird, and by the intellectuals for being superficial. Jarmusch is a very whimsical filmmaker.
“Because it’s different than a traditional narrative film, people are assuming it has SOMETHING TO SAY, or that the symbols all have meaning, and if it doesn’t have SOMETHING TO SAY, then people are assuming that it’s empty at center. Why can’t it just be as it is?”
The consensus here is that it’s a symbolic narrative. and an obvious one at that. Are you saying you disagree with that? It’s not a symbolic narrative? If so, then what is it?
The problem i had with the film not being a symbolic narrative is that it doesn’t work on any other level than perhaps a really offbeat comedy with heaps of random moments. But it’s not as funny as Jamursch’s other comedies. and i don’t really think it qualifies as a totally sensual experience either. IT’s not that great aesthetically to function on that level.
He could be pulling our legs. I won’t deny that. But i personally have no time for those sort of artistic games. They are empty and self indulgent, and display a cynical contempt for their audience.
“I’ve traveled, the world isn’t that pretty.”
Then you must not have been looking very closely. Either that, or you’re too cynical. Ironic, given your enthusiastic reading of this film.
The consensus here is that it’s a symbolic narrative.
Characters: The American, The Mexican, The Lone Man
Yeah, I’d say:
Symbolic Interaction, refers to the patterns of communication, interpretation and adjustment between individuals. Both the verbal and nonverbal responses that a listener then delivers are similarly constructed in expectation of how the original speaker will react. The ongoing process is like the game of charades; only it’s a full-fledged conversation.The term “symbolic interactionism” has come into use as a label for a relatively distinctive approach to the study of human life and human conduct. (Blumer, 1969). With Symbolic interactionism, reality is seen as social, developed interaction with others. Most symbolic interactionists believe a physical reality does indeed exist by an individual’s social definitions, and that social definitions do develop in part or relation to something “real.” People thus do not respond to this reality directly, but rather to the social understanding of reality. Humans therefore exist in three realities: a physical objective reality, a social reality, and a unique. A unique is described as a third reality created out of the social reality, a private interpretation of the reality that is shown to the person by others (Charon, 2007).
Your thesis suggests nothing is being communicated.
JJ is saying that the human mind, designed to process symbols, isn’t communicating?
The Lone Man reaches the American, but did he get anything communicated to him or were his interactions all just personally subjective blather?
William S. Burroughs, The Limits of Control (Semiotext(e): Schizo-Culture, vol. III, no. 2, 1978):
All control systems try to make control as tight as possible, but at the same time, if they succeeded completely there would be nothing left to control.
He misses, rather neurotically, that people exceed limits.
Would you be so kind as to bring that piece directly into the film?
you: “people exceed limits”, Jarmusch: " There is no control mechanism for the imagination. They tried."
Do we need more than that?
I’m not sure, maybe we should wait for Jazz …..
Interesting. I didn’t know about the Burroughs piece. Thanks. I guess there are plenty of ties that we can make with the film, with regards to this mysterious corporation that Murray works for.
“Then you must not have been looking very closely. Either that, or you’re too cynical. Ironic, given your enthusiastic reading of this film.”
I said the world isn’t that pretty, not that the world isn’t pretty.
Christopher Doyle is exceptional in making things look very, very pretty, but that’s his work as an artist.
At the base of the Pyramids of Giza are some older excavations that have been abandoned and subsequently filled with trash. Nobody ever takes photos of the trash for their vacation albums. It is part of the world, too, and the experience of the pyramids. This movie shoots the monuments but not the pile of camel shit that has to be shoveled to the side so as not to offend the tourists.
And if cynicism is your ruling, I actually find the abject to be quite beautiful in its own way, it’s just that clearly movies don’t tend to spend as much time in the bathroom as they spend showing characters eating.
So don’t tell me I’m cynical, I’m just aware they chose locations in Spain that don’t show some of their more ugly neighborhoods. This is a fantasy film, not a docutravelogue through Spain. The symbolic narrative pushes it further from being a fictional film ‘about Spain’ and uses Spain as a setting for a more abstract space. It’s therefore significant that that space is highly aestheticized; even in abandoned buildings it’s not very dirty, there’s no rot or decay, there’s no street gangs (just cute little street urchins), there’s no construction, and there are no riots.
To Joks and Peabody, re: symbolic narrative,
as I said, I think House of Leaves’ 1st page reading of this film is accurate, and whimsy like play I don’t think is without it’s level of seriousness (I don’t consider this a comedy, just a whimsical fantasy). The characters speak about their platitudes as if they need some sort of reassurance from the listener (Lone Man) that they are correct or that he understands them. He turns out to be a good listener in that he’s completely impassive to their ideas but active to his own. The smaller moments, such as when he actually gets angry about the double cappacino, shows that he’s not actually a completely in-control person, but when juxtaposed to these other ‘activists’ he’s able to keep his mouth shut and play by the rules (‘no mobiles’, etc).
So what I think Jarmusch is doing here personally is taking this idea, “What if artists could revolt within the world of imagination and try to eliminate those who try to control this virtual reality” and then deciding to play with it. What makes it good is that he doesn’t fall back on parody or satire but decides to embrace his concept and sell every moment of it (and I think Doyle’s cinematography and the performances of the actors really sell this far beyond what could be derided as a student film approach to surrealism). But behind the characters’ platitudes is the same sort of dialog that moves Coffee and Cigarettes forward. It’s ideas, but it’s not taken with the abrupt meaningful significance of “This is my essay film on this aspect of human nature” but with the joy and playfulness those ideas can have. Do we sit and watch the White Stripes discuss Tesla coils and go, “Oh yeah, the White Stripes have this meaningful connection to the acoustic energy of the Universe” or do we sort of feel like them in the discussion, going, “Yeah Tesla had some cool ideas, man.”
I view the conversations in Limits of Control as taking on the same level of meaning. Each giving a sort of, “Hey, so you’re here, and we’re together in this mission, so uh, here’s what I think about it,” and The Lone Man taking it or leaving it as he chooses. He stops in front of some paintings and completely ignores others. He watches some landscapes and ignores others.
So, if we take the movie what I would call ‘too seriously’, we’d be deconstructing what every Creole, Nude, and Orphan has to say along ‘a x character symbolizes y as shown by statement z’ that can sort of get ahead of the point that not all the characters say or do is significant and some of the insignificant sides of their conversation are also the point.
“I said the world isn’t that pretty, not that the world isn’t pretty.”
Don’t know what you mean. That there are no places in the world that are overwhelmingly clean and beautiful? Only marginal beauty exists in the world? And then, do we want to critique Jarmusch for not shooting the street urchins in Spain?
“…it’s just that clearly movies don’t tend to spend as much time in the bathroom as they spend showing characters eating.”
Oh, I don’t know. There are plenty of directors out there who have bathroom content to offer you. Tarantino, for example, loves the bathroom AND the dinner table. And he and Jarmusch have a lot in common. Those are just two, and “mainstream” artistic filmmakers at that.
" That there are no places in the world that are overwhelmingly clean and beautiful? Only marginal beauty exists in the world? And then, do we want to critique Jarmusch for not shooting the street urchins in Spain?"
Neither. This film is clearly ‘aestheticized’. In addition to me thinking that about it before it ended, then it climaxed on the line of, “this VIRTUAL reality” with clear enunciation to that effect.
If you would like I could also break down how the DP uses filters to draw the eye in such a manner that our appreciation for the ‘color’ and ‘compositional’ qualities is as much a factor of the glass between the light coming into the camera as the light coming into the camera, but how far do we have to go to just agree that the landscape presented here is not Spain but a presentation of a more virtual realm, which is Jarmusch’s arena to play out his whimsical wish-fulfillment fantasy?
I’m not saying that Jarmusch should have shown the dirty parts of Spain. I’m saying that his blocking out of it is significant as to the ‘realism’ of the story, and that the constant platitudes and usage of art tropes and so on indicate we’re not in a geography of completely serious human boundaries and interactions. A composition is significant both for the content that is framed within it, as well as what is left out. Heck, even with black helicopters and roving ‘Bohemians’, most of this world Jarmusch is minimalist and sans extras.
I guess as Robert Peabody would say, it’s the how, not the what, that is of interest here (at least to me). Also, I don’t like the movie, but it would be interesting to compare and contrast Morvern Callar to this movie in terms of aestheticized road trip.
….there’s also a pun to be had here between aestheticized and anesthesia. We’re under the influence of both, in this case.
I don’t like the movie so much either. I agree with you in the sense that part of my dislike was that it was too “aestheticized” in the sense of a “Jarmusch movie world”. The film felt disconnected, but not in a superficial way (meaning a lack of dirty street scenes). I mean in the sense that it felt like Jarmusch burrowed into a hole and played around with his own conventions a bit too much. For me it was a let-down, but probably because Broken Flowers was such a discovery for me. Anyway, it’s about that time for another Jarmusch flick. I’ve been drooling over the prospect of his vampire movie since I first heard about it (the ping-ponging between him and Tarantino continues).
It’s formalist, yes. The two most obvious precursors in this regard are Boorman’s Point Blank and Melville’s Le Samurai.
“I don’t like the movie so much either. "
Well I meant Morvern Callar. I liked Limits of Control, mostly for it’s whimsy, as mentioned! ;-P
“It’s formalist, yes. The two most obvious precursors in this regard are Boorman’s Point Blank and Melville’s Le Samurai.”
Oh clearly Melville. I think he did well with the influence, however. It’s the small things that counted — his outrage at receiving a double espresso being one of my favorite parts of the movie.
I guess I’m going to follow up with the comparison to Tarantino. I was going to avoid that point but I thought about it and it ended up illustrating something about my personal taste, and hence as to why I rather enjoyed Limits of Control despite its limitations.
I would agree that both live in homage world and I have heard this argument before about how they seem to be riffing off of each other but Jarmusch world feels very different to me than Tarantino world, both in how homages are used and to their purpose. I guess I could go further into that but suffice to say for now (before I head off to work) I prefer Jarmusch’s world. Jarmusch’s world is a place where you are supposed to sit around listening to music and drink coffee and talk about cool art you experienced. To me it doesn’t have to mean anything more than that. Tarantino world is a whacky place, to be sure, it’s funny because inept gangsters accidentally shoot Marvin in the face, but I sort of lost my taste for that world once it became ’it’s funny because Eli Roth beats a Nazi’s head in.’ I understand that some people believe that Inglourious Basterds is commenting against ‘this should be funny’ but I still really ‘got’ from it that the whole activity is justified because hey, it’s just a Nazi, amirite?
In terms of parallels between their careers, I’m not necessarily sure that it’s a function of Jarmusch watched From Dusk Till Dawn, and decided to make a vampire flick, but merely a factor of they’re both operating in meta-homage world of movie tropes, where eventually vampires are just chillin’ in some corner of their imagination to be used at some point. The re-use of these cinematic tropes are going to be familiar because they are. Jarmusch and Tarantino obviously, at least to me, have much different eyes for what they see ‘in’ cinema, and if their world met it would be more of a confusing than a coherent place.
My trips through Jarmusch land feel more loving, and Tarantino’s feel more tongue-in-cheek. One really dedicates himself to Euroart, the other to exploitation. I have no idea as toward their respect for each other and even if they hang out (that would be illuminating to know, if there is some source for it), but I would imagine in each case of one watching the other, they’d be like, “Cool movie, bro” and then turn right back to their individual trinkets.
So you prefer “cool art” to “cool exploitation”, is what it comes down to?
They can be connected in so many ways, but it is hard to compare them.
Well there’s no arguing taste but for that matter, there is an attitude behind what Jarmusch and Tarantino are doing, and Jarmusch’s is a lot more laid back and less directed toward his own presence. But I would be incorrect to state that Tarantino’s is ‘wrong’, since it’s also Miike’s attitude toward cinema and I like his works a lot better than both others mentioned.
I think the more important aspect to investigate, if you’re interested, is this idea of cinematic tropes and how they get appropriated by different filmmakers to redefine the familiar, i.e. what vampires are to Tarantino vs. Jarmusch vs. Chan Wook Park vs. Werner Herzog vs., someday, wouldn’t be surprising, Edgar Wright or something.
people bonding/communicating via cultural references is big for both Jarmusch and Tarantino.
I’ve avoided this because it looks like one of those slow pretentious movies where people read things into it that aren’t actually there. If you have ask yourself if it was any good but it probably wasn’t.
“people bonding/communicating via cultural references is big for both Jarmusch and Tarantino.”
Say cinema is a giant middle school prom, where only the fewest of filmmakers have matured enough to actually dance with their dates or hang out with everybody, so for the most part they all conglomerate in these satellite groups that float around and only arbitrarily exchange members.
Jarmusch and Tarantino are in the same grade and have mostly the same teachers.
However, during this prom, Jarmusch is hanging out in the corner with Wim Wenders where occasionally Spike Jonze wanders over to attempt to interject, while Tarantino and Rodriguez are goofing around somewhere near the dance floor to impress some chicks, both groups thinking this social event is stupid but Jarmusch and co. sulk to the peripheral to observe and Tarantino and co. basically just taking the opportunity to breakdance ironically.
Wrong. They wouldn’t be breakdancing ironically. They would be doing it because they genuinely love it, whether they were good or not, and they wouldn’t care what people think one way or another!