By Mack Chico
Woody Allen isn’t the only American filmmaker to have set up shop in Spain recently.
Jim Jarmusch surveys the striking architecture in “The Limits of Control,” an existential travelogue of a crime thriller (minus the thrills) taking its inspiration from, among other things, a William S. Burroughs essay , a Rimbaud poem and vintage crime films , particularly John Boorman ‘s 1967 classic ” Point Blank .”
Unfortunately, the whole seldom adds up to the sum of its illustrious parts, and Jarmusch’s trademark deadpan quirks seem to have gotten lost in the translation.
The resulting riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma won’t do anything to broaden the filmmaker’s loyal fan base when Focus Features releases the film Friday (May 1); as it is, many of his loyal followers will be left feeling as alienated as his central character.
That would be Isaach De Bankole’s Lone Man, an intensely focused, almost robotic man on a mission of some sort who is dispatched to various Spanish locations, where he meets up with a succession of oddball individuals who inevitably exchange little matchboxes with him.
They include a number of familiar Jarmusch faces — John Hurt (Guitar), Youki Kudoh (Molecules), Tilda Swinton (Blonde) and a Dick Cheney -channeling Bill Murray (American) — and new arrivals Gael Garcia Bernal (Mexican) and Paz de la Huerta (Nude), who definitely lives up to her character’s name.
But while the always effective De Bankole remains a captivating presence, and masterful Christopher Doyle’s cinematography is undeniably arresting, Jarmusch’s meandering musings on language as a control mechanism, as filtered through the impressionistic lens of an Antonioni or Jacques Rivette , fail to make any kind of lasting impression.