8:00 PM, 14th November, 2009
The most unbelievable stories are often based on real-life events. Like Shine, The Soloist depicts the true story of the rise and fall, and arguable rise again, of a musical genius. Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx) is a cello prodigy who becomes schizophrenic and homeless during his second year at a performing arts college. Ayers continues to play the cello and violin on the street for change, leading to columnist Steve Lopez (Downey) to discover him. The columnist, in a professional slump himself, begins writing about Ayers. In time their association develops into a real, if flawed, mutually-beneficial friendship.
Steve Lopez wrote many columns about his relationship with Ayers and his transition out of homelessness. Lopez's work led to the development of the book "The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music" and, of course this movie. Lopez's writings brought attention to the plight of the homeless, and aided to the social integration of Ayers.
With the welcome return of Robert Downey Jr to the big screen in recent years, this is a fine pairing. Unfortunately the movie did not compete with last year's Oscars as its release was delayed, so let's see what the future brings.
10:08 PM, 14th November, 2009
A man (De Bankole) walks into an indistinguishable cafe in Spain. He orders two espressos, each in a separate cup, then waits. He waits for somebody he does not know to deliver a matchbox. That matchbox contains a piece of paper with a person's name written upon it. The name of the person he is to kill. He eats the paper, so it can never be seen again, and proceeds with his job, most of the while discussing the intricacies of life with a woman wearing, at most, a clear plastic raincoat; or a host of talkative strangers.
It has been a long time between drinks for cult writer/director Jim Jarmusch, who returns here with another movie that uses a hitman character as a foil for an introspective drama. Evidently the success of his previous film, Broken Flowers, which all but threatened to crack the mainstream, has afforded him more of a budget for this outing. This time around, the drama steps to more exotic locations than Jarmusch's past films, which have toured all manner of Americana, and that makes for a surprising change to the vibe. Jim Jarmusch movies are all about the vibe.
Jarmusch has stated that The Limits of Control has been inspired significantly by William Burroughs' essays (it certainly takes its title from them), particularly the desire to strip back convention to absurdity. Case in point being Paz de la Huerta's character, who appears in almost every scene, completely nude, and fawns over the protagonist with little regard for what is happening around her. As with Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, it is also obvious that the French crime dramas of the 1970s era have strongly influenced proceedings (particularly films like Le Cercle Rouge and Le Samourai). The two make for an intoxicating mix.