The Limits of Control Litmus Test and Sustainable Cinema (Updated)

28 05 2009

I have a new rule about film critics.

Any critic who dismisses Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, THE LIMITS OF CONTROL, has either lost their ability to read cinema or never could.  Either way, any critic who repudiates this film has no business writing about cinema.  PERIOD.  

The Limits of Control

THE LIMITS OF CONTROL is one of the best films of the year, perhaps the whole decade, but at the very least Jarmusch’s masterpiece.  The film is a relative to two other experiential masterpieces that have come out this year, Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico) and Hunger (Steve McQueen, U.K.).  These three films are paving a new course for cinema which relies upon atmosphere, silence and above all, visuals which are so palpable and vital that it’s impossible to escape the immediacy of each and every moment on screen.  Jarmusch, of course, is the most restrained and efficient, but just as effectively hypnotic and spiritual.  

Forget about narrative, although there is one, which may take a few viewings before able to piece it together, but after all, according to the great Surrealist, Luis Buñuel, “Mystery is a basic element  of all works of art.”  In this case, the mystery IS the story.  Who are these people?  What is the objective?  But it is right in front of your nose if you simply let itself undress before your eyes.  Modern critics usually hate mystery, or at the very least resent when it is the premise of the film that’s elusive.  To continue Buñuel’s quote, ” (Mystery) is generally lacking on screen.  Writers, directors and producers take good care in avoiding anything that may upset us.  They keep the marvelous window on the liberating world of poetry shut…But that the white eye-lid of the screen reflect it’s proper light, the Universe would go up in flames.  But for the moment we can sleep in peace: the light of the cinema is conveniently dosified and shackled.”


THE LIMITS OF CONTROL is one of those marvelous windows.  Don’t miss it. The last time I saw it, Gus Van Sant was just leaving the 7pm screening!  THE LIMITS OF CONTROL plays at The Hollywood for one week starting Friday, although hopefully it will stay for a year.


Meanwhile, shame on you, Willamette Week AND The Portland Mercury for navel gazing through 116 minutes of pure cinema poetry.  

For an unexpurgated interview with writer/director Jim Jarmusch about THE LIMITS OF CONTROL in the latest issue of Film Comment, CLICK HERE.


A sensational week for cinema yet again for our lush little town.  THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles, 1947, U.S.) starring Welles and his then estranged wife, one of the sexiest women ever, Rita Hayworth.  

The Lady from Shanghai

This is another films which critics rejected because of its “rambling style used by Orson Welles (which) has occasional flashes of imagination, particularly in the tricky backgrounds he uses to unfold the yarn, but effects, while good on their own, are distracting to the murder plot,” wrote Variety upon its release.  Producer Harry Cohn detested the film because he didn’t understand it and offered $1,000 to anyone who could explain it to him, which even Welles himself couldn’t do.  Is it no surprise then that there is mention of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI in Jarmusch’s THE LIMITS OF CONTROL?

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI opens Friday at The Laurelhurst Theater.  Only THREE BUCKS.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see this elusive Welles’ experience.


This weekend only at the Northwest Film Center, Fellini’s Academy Award winning film, AMARCORD (Italy, 1973).  A carnivalesque portrait of provincial Italy during the Fascist period, Fellini’s most personal film satirizes his youth in Rimini and turns daily life into a circus of social rituals, adolescent desires, male fantasies, and political subterfuge, all set to Nina Rota’s nostalgia-tinged score.


“A film of exhilarating beauty… as full of tales as Scheherazade, some romantic, some slapstick, some elegiac, some bawdy, some as mysterious as the unexpected sight of a peacock flying through a light snowfall.” —Vincent Canby, The New York Times. Academy Award, Best Foreign Film.

FELLINI’S AMARCORD plays this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7pm at The Whitsell Auditorium.  And remember, PSU students attend for FREE!


Portland State University’s Fifth Avenue Cinema is back on the repertory programming radar with the haunting SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (Victor Erice, Spain, 1973).  


Erice’s debut film is considered one of the masterpieces of Spanish cinema.  The lighting drips with honey colors and a mysterious dread, which oddly suits the sense of emerging sexuality in these young girls world amidst black cats, black trains, engulfing flames and poisonous mushrooms.  This is a film that feels like it came from the imagination of a dark and curious teenage girl’s dream which teeters on the the edge of losing its innocence.  


In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Ana, a sensitive 7-year old girl in a rural Spanish hamlet is traumatized after a traveling projectionist screens a print of James Whale’s 1931, Frankenstein, for the village. The youngster is profoundly disturbed by the scenes in which the monster murders a little girl and is later murdered himself by the villagers. Ana begins to question her sister about the profoundities of life and death and believes her older sister when she tells Ana that the monster is not dead, but exists as a spirit inhabiting a nearby barn. When a Loyalist soldier, a fugitive from Franco’s victorious army, hides out in the barn, Ana crosses from reality into a fantasy world all her own.

THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE plays this weekend only at The 5th Avenue Cinema Friday and Saturday at 7pm and 9:30pm, Sunday at 3pm.  PSU students get in FREE!  For the rest of us, it’s only THREE BUCKS!


Now it’s time to HIDE YO’ MAMAS because TRUCK TURNER (Jonathan Kaplan, U.S., 1974) is HERE!  Isaac Hayes (Chef from South Park) stars as Mac Turner, and when he’s not making the ladies swoon, he’s busting cons who skip bail. He’s out to catch a pimp named Gator, but along the way he stirs up all kinds of trouble with the seedy 70’s underworld. A price is put on Truck’s head: a stable of ho’s is the prize for killing him.


Yaphet Kotto plays a ruthless pimp out to collect, and Truck is forced to fight back. This movie is filled with great dialogue, action packed excitement, and an amazing Isaac Hayes soundtrack. A rare 35mm print with 70’s baadasssss blacksploitation trailers before the movie. 

TRUCK TURNER is playing SATURDAY NIGHT ONLY at 7PM at The Hollywood Theater.  You really, really, really don’t want to miss this one!  If you’re new or skeptical of these Grindhouse screenings, this one is pure fun and the more friends you bring, the more fun it will be!  Grindhouse screenings are as much about the enthusiasm of the audience as it is about the glory of cheap thrill cinema!  GO GO GO!  There’ll be so much ACTION, it’ll put you in TRACTION, JACKSON!  SEE TRUCK TURNER!!!

THIS JUST IN!  Loyal Grindhouse sponsor Bridge City Comics is giving away a pair of free tickets FRIDAY, MAY 29th ONLY at their store: 3725 N Mississippi Ave.  The tickets must be picked up in person.  First come, first served.


Now if you want some sleaze, and by that I mean some really god awful filmmaking with a little bit of T & A here and there (but very, very tame) to keep you from clawing your eyes out, The Clinton Street Theater is resurrecting (and Lord knows why) two 1960’s films: NIGHT OF LUST (José Bénazéraf, France, 1963), with music featuring Chet Baker (!) followed by BABES IN THE WOODS (A.A. Krovek, U.S., 1962).  Both of these are about an hour long each.  NIGHT OF LUST is a French crime potboiler starring Verner and Kalfon as rival gang leaders who clash over control of the Parisian narcotics trade and BABES IN THE WOODS, reads the Clinton St. Theater website,  “Lost for over 40 years, this will be the first Public Screenings since 1963!!!  Follow 3 gorgeous ladies as they go to camp, finding plenty of mischeif (sic) along the way.”

Night of Lust

NIGHT OF LUST/BABES IN THE WOODS play June 1st-4th starting at 7pm.  Tickets for both only $6.  There’s beer at the pub next door you can take into the theater.  You’re gonna need it.


Speaking of sleaze, Soderbergh is back to bore us again with another one of his low budget experiments (which is always slightly more interesting than when he bores us with his Hollywood movies), THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE starring cock gagging porn star, Sasha Gray.  Don’t know who Sasha Gray is?  If you want to be turned off of sex FOREVER, watch HERE.  WARNING:  It is vile and degrading and that’s…Sasha Gray for ya!  To me, Sasha Gray is the antithesis of good sex.


Thankfully, Soderbergh’s film has none of Gray’s “talents” on display.  Still, rest easy that you’ll be done with this 77 minute experiment in no time to go take a shower.  The trailer is nice though.

THE GFE opens Friday at Cinema 21.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention PDX Queer Doc Fest.  It runs May 28th-May 31st.  Some really fabulous and exciting films will be playing, curated by co-director of the brilliant queer doc, The Cockettes, David Weissman.  Weissman and his partner, Russ Gage, really do their homework and bring not just queer content to the fest, but GOOD FILMS, which is so often lacking in the gay film fest scene.  This fest is solid.  


Check out their website at and their youtube page by clicking HERE.


Lastly this week, Sam Raimi is back in form with his new horror film, DRAG ME TO HELL and Pixar is going to reduce us all to laughter and tears with UP.  Now listen, these may be really fantastic films and I’ll most likely go myself, but it’s time to start thinking about cinema as part of a sustainable culture.  There is so much great cinema that is seasonal and crops up for only a week or  even one night.  Those are the films you should be seeking out.  Support your local cinema agriculture, watch at local cinemas and watch these fresh and rare screenings.  Films like Star Trek and Drag Me To Hell and Up are vacuumed sealed and have a longer shelf life.  So see these local screenings while you can.  You’ll feel healthier because you’ll be part of a community.  


One other new film which may get neglected is the new Atom Egoyan film, ADORATION (Canada, 2009) which won the Ecumenical Jury Prize in Cannes 2008.  


ADORATION is another drama mystery like his best work, The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica and is a return to Egoyan’s unique and haunting vision.

Opens Friday at Fox Tower.


One other thing…I’m not a fan but I have friends who are.  An alleged 35mm print of PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE will play at The Bagdad, but as usual, I’m skeptical.  Even when I write and call in advance, they still are interested in one thing and that’s selling concessions, NOT cinema.  So be warned.  It plays Friday at 10pm (and actually Adventureland and Observe and Report play before that, so that might be a great triple feature) and again Saturday at 2pm.  You could be paying for a DVD.


And finally, is giving away cinema masterpieces for FREE yet again!!!  Melissa, you guys are making it hard for me to leave my computer off at night!


CRIA CUERVOS (Carlos Saura, Spain, 1976), which would be a perfect compliment to this weekend’s screening of SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE at 5th Ave Cinema as well as Saura’s latest film which opens Friday at The Hollywood Theater, FADOS.  At any rate, this is Saura’s best and in my opinion, the best Spanish film made.


L’AVVENTURA (Antonioni, Italy 1960),  which next to Godard’s Breathless is one of the most important films of 1960 as well as the most poetic.


CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7 (Agnès Varda, France, 1962), which is one of the best Nouvelle Vague films by the movement’s one female filmmaker.  

Plus three more: Black Orpheus, Harakiri and The Cranes Are Flying.  AND they’re still showing SIX free documentaries: Monterey Pop, Burden of Dreams, Harlan County USA, For All Mankind, Salesman and Idi Amin.  AAAAAAAAND four MORE free films which are part of the World Cinema Foundation restoration project.  That’s SIXTEEN films to watch in hi-res streaming.  ALL FREE.

For those of you on a budget or who hate going to the cinema because you are too misanthropic (get over it and come out to play), is the best arthouse cinema website, period.  GO THERE NOW.


P.S. Congratulations to Michael Haneke for winning the Palm d’Or (finally!!) and Andrea Arnold for the Jury Prize (two years in a row having made only two films!).  And Tarantino…NAH NA NA NA NAAAAAAH NAH!  THHHHHHHhhhhhrrrp.