Lone Rangers

Lone Rangers (photo)

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Back in the early ’60s, when Sonny Liston ruled boxing and hard bop could still be found on the corner jukebox, just wearing a sharkskin suit could be construed as an act of aggression, passive or otherwise. Sharkskin is the uniform of choice worn by the protagonist of Jim Jarmusch’s alluring, enigmatic “The Limits of Control.” Isaach De Bankolé’s Lone Man (for that’s how he is ID’d in the program notes, if not the movie itself) is like Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, taciturn and resolute, if also exposed to more sunlight. Lone Man’s granite-slab impassiveness is buttressed by the sharkskin’s implicit provocation. Yet, as with his suits, De Bankolé maintains his character’s angular, creased surfaces throughout the movie. Only when the routine is ruffled does his composure show nicks — as when a café waiter brings him a double espresso in one cup instead of two espressos in separate cups, which is what he asks for in the first place.

Why? Sorry, that’s one of the many things you’ll have to accept without explanation if you want to roll with “The Limits of Control.” From the start, you’re kept at arm’s length from clarity. Lone Man strides towards his assignment, delivered in an airport waiting area in random aphorisms by an agitated brother named Creole (Alex Descas). Though Creole’s designated “French” translator (Jean-François Stévenin) shares our overall bewilderment with these gnomic commands, Lone Man acknowledges everything with consensual, casually enforced silence.

So he flies to Spain, where he waits for further instructions, receiving coded messages in matchboxes bearing the logo “Le Boxeuer.” (He swallows each message, washing them down with the aforementioned espressos.) He’s met at his hotel room by a young woman named Nude (Paz de La Huerta), whose only article of clothing is a transparent plastic raincoat. (He gently rebuffs her offers of sex with the words “Not while I’m working,” though he allows her to curl naked into his fully-clothed body in bed at night.) He goes to art galleries where he encounters canvasses that are somehow linked to his next café appointment with whomever has a matchbook, a tool that could be useful in whatever covert act that’s being planned — or another set of aphorisms.

04292009_limitsofcontrol2.jpgAn international cast of heavyweights (Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Luis Tosar, Youki Kudoh, Gael García Bernal) make up the enigmatic group with whom De Bankolé’s Lone Man has these encounters. Their conversations are about everything — old movies, molecular physics, Bohemia’s decline — except whatever the assignment is. Random acts of violence and terror lurk at the edges, but they, too, offer no clarification. And when Lone Man has his ultimate rendezvous with a Cheney-esque Ugly American sharpie (Bill Murray), task at hand, you sense the latter somehow has it coming to him without understanding why.

Have I spoiled it for you? With as many loose ends as “The Limits of Control” brings to the table, I doubt it; that is, unless you’ve decided (as many reviewers already have) that Jarmusch is carrying his own penchant for absurdist mischief too far. There have been occasions when Jarmusch has tempted me towards similar conclusions. Not this one. For one thing, he’s got Christopher Doyle, Wong Kar-wai’s go-to DP, orchestrating the light and shadow of Spain’s urban and rural terrain. Doyle’s comfortable enough with framing enigmas to give them the kind of romance that can — and has — sustained even the most threadbare conventional thriller.

Otherwise, I think what Jarmusch is up to here is a kind of moviemaking that comes perilously close to music or dance, where the momentum isn’t shaped by explicit plot details so much as by chimeras of movies embedded in our collective dream-life. This is crystallized in an exchange De Bankolé has when he confronts a surprised Murray in a heavily guarded sanctuary. When asked how he got past search lights, barbed wire and a thick phalanx of ski-masked security guards, Lone Man replies, “I used my imagination.” Some may view this as a coy evasion. But when you think about the indignities visited upon our imaginative faculties by our digital-cable cultural backwash, it sounds like an assertion of will. For a habitually deadpan sensibility like that belonging to Jarmusch, it sounds almost passionate.


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.