Jim Jarmusch Pushes the “Limits”

Jim Jarmusch Pushes the “Limits” (photo)

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As filmmaker Jim Jarmusch sits down for our conversation, he pulls out a small notebook filled with what looks like quickly jotted-down ideas during his travels. When I ask about it, he jokes with the same deadpan wit that his movies are known for that they’re his answers to my questions. He then segues to his musician friend and hipster icon Tom Waits, who apparently kept a similar notebook full of topics he wanted to remember to discuss while being interviewed: “So, regardless of the question, he’d say: ‘Do you know there are albino moles living under Las Vegas?'” Since his rise from early ’80s Lower East Side breakout to world-renowned auteur, Jarmusch is still one of the coolest people living in New York.

Also effortlessly chic is “The Limits of Control,” Jarmusch’s first film since 2005’s “Broken Flowers,” in which a sharkskin-suited Isaach De Bankolé stars as an enigmatic, meticulous criminal on an unknown assignment in picturesque Spain. Shot for shot the most gorgeous film of the year thus far (thanks to cinematographer extraordinaire Christopher Doyle), the film is an impressionistic, minimalist art-thriller… but maybe that’s not accurate. The two-espresso-drinking De Bankolé sits in cafés, visits museums, walks around and encounters a bizarre series of contacts (Tilda Swinton, Gael García Bernal, John Hurt) on the way to completing some mission involving Bill Murray’s patronizing businessman. It’s a viewing experience that’s mysterious and fulfilling, cerebral but open to analysis. Jarmusch and I certainly analyzed the film a bit, while occasionally discussing William Burroughs and French poetry, Dick Cheney and naked women. If you’re confused by Jarmusch’s references to “he,” by the way, that would be De Bankolé’s nameless “Lone Man.”

After reading “The Limits of Control,” the William Burroughs essay with the same title, the only direct correlation I could come up with was that you frequently have characters who interact with one another through language barriers.

The Burroughs essay isn’t all that pertinent to the film, although it concerns language as a control mechanism, a very powerful one. But really, I was just lifting the title because I liked it. The essay is interesting, although somewhat out of date due to the web. The way information is disseminated now is quite different than 1975 or whenever he wrote that. More importantly from Burroughs to me are his investigations into coincidence, the cut-up method and using the I Ching. Those things were very important in how this film was created. The essay itself is less directly relevant than some [other] ideas of Burroughs’.

What made me think there was more to it was the end credits, which close with “No Limit. No Control.” That was the only reason I took another peek at Burroughs’ essay.

Well, it’s in there. But this film has an incredible amount of references to other things that are not essential to understanding. I didn’t want to make a film that was mentally taxing. I wanted it to be, not an exercise, but a trip for the audience to be sucked along by, and hopefully be entertaining on some level. The film was structured [so that audiences] accept things as we went along and look for connective layers that would present themselves if you’re open to them.

I don’t know if you know this French school of poetry called Oulipo. Raymond Queneau used a lot of game structures, puzzling things together that are seemingly not connected but then become connected by juxtaposition. Burroughs made a series of incredibly beautiful scrapbooks where he would take things out of the newspaper. He’d find things on the same page that were seemingly unrelated, and yet he’d find something else that connected them. I like Brian Eno’s little Oblique Strategies cards. All those things were inspirations on to construct a film as you go, to some extent. I had all the scenes sketched out, but I hadn’t written the dialogue. We were very open as we went. That makes no sense at all now. [laughs]

04302009_jimjarmusch2.jpgNo, it does. I was enthralled with the film’s peculiar sense of logic. It has these delightful red herrings, and an elliptical sense of both dialogue and imagery that seems just out of reach of concrete meaning. It’s a very human trait to search for patterns in these kinds of elements.

Yeah, and to me, one of the strongest forms of human expression has always been variations on things. The film embraces that, too. A lot of the situations keep repeating, but they’re varied by the place or the person he’s meeting with, or where he’s waiting. It’s just a series of variations, which is in classical music, pop music, fashion, architecture, literature and painting.

At the press screening I attended, a woman behind me kept sighing. I think she was expecting something more to happen, and I wanted to turn around and say, “You’re watching it.” In a film that’s clearly about the moment-to-moment experience but still about the puzzle, how do you strike a balance between giving and withholding?

In this case, one key is the first painting that he goes and looks at, a Cubist painting of a violin by Juan Gris. The film, although not visually referential to Cubism in any other way, is kind of cubistic philosophically or structurally, in that you can look at scenes differently, details differently, details from different perspectives that are all equally valid. The film doesn’t tell you how to interpret anything, really. That was the intention, which I understand — for some people, like that lady — might be frustrating because it’s an action movie with no action. That’s contradictory and frustrating if you’re expecting conventional action, but we’re referencing crime films and action movies in small ways… my big Michael Bay helicopter descending shot, you know? There is no real convention that satisfies those things, although the ending is kind of a convention because he [has to] complete his mission. But even that, what does it mean? It’s amusing to me to hear that people have interpreted some things that I didn’t even think of.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.