3/5

Jim Jarmusch’s smacked-out vampire movie ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ starts with a close-up of a seven-inch single spinning on a turntable. Which is apt, as this slim, dreamy film demands that you kick back and slip into its slow, deadpan groove if it’s not going to drive you completely mad. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are Adam and Eve, a married vampire couple of many centuries standing. He’s depressed and surrounded by records and guitars in a Gothic house in Detroit; she’s living in a flat in Tangier. They’ve seen it all and met everyone – the English civil war, Franz Schubert – and life’s taken on a fin-de-siècle, morose air.

Jarmusch’s film looks beautiful and has a groovy nighttime air to it, especially when Adam and Eve drive about the ruins of Detroit at night in Adam’s white Jaguar XJS. These scenes could be the hippest travelogue moments ever committed to screen. But ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ drags its feet and shows serious signs of anaemia as a story. Really, though, Jarmusch doesn’t seem too concerned with story at all, and he rarely has been, with some of his films like ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’, ‘Mystery Train’ and ‘Night on Earth’ dispensing altogether with the pretence that the feature-length work is his strength.

At times it feels like a great idea, atmospherically realised, worryingly diluted. Too many times we hear references to getting up at dusk and going to bed at dawn; the talk of humans as zombies is repetitive (even if tagging Los Angeles as ‘zombie central’ is brilliant); and the century-hopping namedropping becomes a little tiresome, even if it’s a good gag at first. Brief appearances from Mia Wasikowska as Eve’s less mature sister Ava (she still drinks blood at the source), Anton Yelchin as Adam’s rocker pal Ian and John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe lift the film out of its stylish torpor, and maybe one or two more appearances like this would have given it a boost.

But there’s still something magical and magnetic about this world of mature, know-it-all, ultra-cool vampires that Jarmusch creates and somehow it never seems at all silly. On the contrary, we come to see them as something like cultured heroin addicts – extremely well-read and fine company, but always looking over your shoulder for the next fix. They are a refined sort. They procure their blood on the black market (Adam is in cahoots with a hospital doctor, played by Jeffrey Wright), they recall their friendships with Byron and Shelley, they muse over colourful wild mushrooms (‘Just goes to show: we don’t know shit about fungi,’ says Adam deadly seriously) and they discuss science and planets. If this is partly a compendium of Jarmusch’s arcane knowledge, then Hiddleston and Swinton, dressed to impress and both totally suited to the other-wordly but tender nature of their characters, are surely the guys to share it with us.

This movie is really love it or hate it. Either you fall in love with the atmosphere and the characters or you hate it for it’s non-existent plot.

So in sum, Only Loversis (to echo Adam’s disaffected declaration) something of a drag. Starved of actual aesthetic rewards, then, let’s turn to one of the film’s more interesting, though still underdeveloped, undercurrents: the fluid nature of authorship, which stands in intriguing contrast to Jarmusch’s totemic brandishing of iconic names. “Why don’t you let on?” Eve chides Marlowe early on, urging him to own up to his penning of the Shakespeare canon, “It would cause such delicious chaos.” “I think the world has enough chaos right now,” replies Kit—and later, mirroring Adam’s rationale for apparently “giving” Schubert the adagio for one of his symphonies, he will concur that “getting the work out there,” attached names aside, is the most important thing.

Through equal parts design and conceptual confusion, Jarmusch sets up his vampiric protagonists as both the secret source of some of our culture’s greatest accomplishments and admiring, discerning critics of the best that we have attained, both participants and observers. And as they disclaim any truth as to their origins in their cheekily adopted monikers (Adam also travels as “Dr. Faust” while clandestinely infiltrating the hospital in scrubs and surgical mask, and Wright’s “Dr. Watson” refers to him subsequently, and unfunnily, as “Dr. Strangelove” and “Dr. Caligari”), it is the work itself which stands—whether the music that Adam creates in his solitary studio, or Eve’s readings from Marlowe on the soundtrack, or the onscreen performances that Jarmusch refuses to interrupt. Even as he is a distinctive artist in himself, Jarmusch has consistently demonstrated in his work an eagerness to incorporate the work and the culture of others—not to appropriate it, exploit it, or extrinsically augment his own work by it, but to admiringly display it, to make it available. If inOnly LoversJarmusch’s own art unfortunately falls flat, he at least consistently reminds us, within the very text of his films, that his is only one small facet of a vaster, shared artistic culture, and one that is very much alive.

This is a very good review, though the author didn’t like the movie. The movie itself might be a drag, but the little aspects that make up the whole movie are what makes it special. If you love them Only Lovers Left Alive is a gem otherwise it is boring. I truly loved and admired it, but I can totally understand this review.

itslikeyaknow replied to your post “itslikeyaknow replied to your post “I’m so dead. I saw the new footage…”

I’m seeing the gifs and I was not prepared in any way for the “Not what I need” stare right into the camera. I actually said “Oh fuck me I’m dead” looking it. Scared the crap out of me. (insert scary and horny gif here)

When the new footage began I was like OH NOOOOO!!!!!! Poor Adam. Then he scared the shit out of me!!!!! My heart literally stopped for a moment. Seriously. I was utterly not prepared.

image

(This gif is overused, but this time it really was exactly this!)

I think I need to apologise to my neighbours in the morning as it’s the middle of the night and I was loud and made some inhuman noises.

Text
Photo
Quote
Link
Chat
Audio
Video