WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
A mysterious loner with a murky criminal past arrives in Spain ostensibly to carry out a mission though it’s not quite clear exactly what that might be. He walks (and walks and walks and walks) through various city streets towns and fields across the country on a journey that may be partially a dream or may be something else.
WHO’S IN IT?
Jarmusch veteran Isaach De Bankole (Night on Earth Ghost Dog Coffee and Cigarettes) is saddled with the role identified only as the Lone Man. Mainly he keeps returning to the same places and having the same conversations with people who remind him that “those who know they’re bigger than the rest should go to the cemetery.” Others ask him questions in Spanish (whether he understands any Spanish is unclear) to which he always replies in the negative. It’s an oddly silent deadpan performance written and played in one dimension. Other Jarmusch regulars also turn up including Bill Murray (for five minutes near the end) John Hurt Youki Kudoh Alex Descas and Tilda Swinton. If there was one reason to see this drivel it’s for Swinton’s trippy performance in blonde wig and big dark glasses — a lively cameo filled with filmic references from Rita Hayworth to Michelangelo Antonioni. The cast is rounded out with other fine actors whose talents are completely wasted including Gael Garcia Bernal Hiam Abbass and Paz de la Huerta.
Spain looks like a nice place to visit.
The Limits of Control is the kind of indulgence some filmmakers fall into when they feel they want to “stretch.” Unfortunately Jarmusch who has done some very interesting and distinctive film work including Down by Law Stranger Than Paradise and Broken Flowers just doesn’t have a story worth telling here. Experimental is fine but there should be some semblance of a coherent theme or point of view. Instead we mainly watch this guy walk in a dreamlike state for about two hours trying to figure out the meaning of a matchbox and repeatedly returning to the same waiter at an outdoor café to order two espressos in separate cups.
MOST MEMORABLE LINE OF DIALOGUE:
It’s a three-way tie:
”Wait three days until you see the bread. The guitar will find you.”
“Among us there are those who are not among us.”
And finally …
“Sometimes there are films where people just sit there.” (You got that one right!)
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX:
Netflix. At least if you snore through most of this you won’t be disturbing anyone else.
Director Steven Soderbergh creates a $60 million dollar art film aimed to be an epic look at the life of famed Argentinean rebel Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro). Split into two parts that may be shown either together or in separate engagements the director seems intent on rewriting the book on biopics and in doing so has completely muted a potentially interesting study of the man who became a revered figure in Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba. Part I aka The Argentine charts Che’s beginning career as a charismatic young doctor who meets Castro and sails to Cuba with the common goal of overthrowing corrupt dictator Fulgenico Batista. Proving himself to be a crafty and smart fighter particularly when it comes to guerilla warfare Che becomes a heroic figure among his colleagues and the Cubans. In Part II aka Guerrilla Che is portrayed after his peak power days when he mysteriously disappears only to re-emerge in Bolivia where he organizes the Latin American Revolution. Largely focusing on the grunt work of the battles this section details his dedication to a cause that ultimately will also become his tragic downfall. When an even LONGER version of Che premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival international reaction to the film was decidedly mixed at best -- even though Benicio Del Toro’s performance was universally praised. Although he’s physically perfect for the role his approach is to basically mumble through the proceedings like a faux Marlon Brando in his Viva Zapata period. If Del Toro was indeed born to play this part it doesn’t really show as he fails to connect with the audience. In the livelier first section -- in which the material is more political and intriguing -- Del Toro almost comes alive especially when visiting New York and the U.N. but frustratingly he mainly chooses to underplay to the point of tedium. The shootouts in the last part of the film come across as amateurish something out of a ‘50s TV Western. The rest of the mostly Spanish cast does what they can with the hackneyed script with standouts Rodrigo Santoro as Raul Castro Catalina Sandino Moreno as Che’s second wife and Demian Bichir who manages to be quite convincing as Fidel Castro. Unlike the lively portrait director Walter Salles achieved in the far more engaging and pertinent The Motorcycle Diaries the usually talented Steven Soderbergh (Traffic Ocean's Eleven) paints a dry profile of Che Guevera diminishing whatever excitement may have existed in his life. By concentrating on these two narrow portions of Che’s life the director fails to deliver even the tiniest proof or argument as to why this man was so revered and remains so iconic to this day. The film completely skips over major points and fails to find the character’s flaws. And the reported $60 million dollar budget is nowhere to be seen -- Che even looks dull and unexciting. It’s clear Soderbergh simply got too close to the subject after seven years of research and somehow viewed this wannabe bio-epic as his own Lawrence of Arabia. Far from it. See it only if you need a good nap.