Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Only Lovers Left Alive

Directed & Written 
Jim Jarmusch

     Jim Jarmusch's vampire love story Only Lovers Left Alive is everything you would expect from a Jarmusch film and more. A beautifully told, culturally significant, almost anti-vampire film, that might be one of the best vampires film made in years. That is highly contradictory, but the simple fact is, this story is so much more than just a typical tale of vampires and vampire lore. That is not to say the filmmakers do not play with the tradition, but the power of the film lies in the romantic beauty between two different creatures and a culture that has been in decline for decades. Not to mention, it is supremely cool, hip as hell, and contains that expert intelligent wit and humor that only Jim Jarmusch can deliver. A knockout of a film.
     Only Lovers Left Alive focuses on two vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), as centuries old lovers who have drifted in and out of each others lives. Yes, there is significance to the historical, biblical and cultural significance of their names. They may not be the originators, but their relationship, love and being, is of power, originality and unbounded love. A love that can be the ground point and an exemplified foundation for existence in companionship. The love of all love. Adam and Eve are what strong love should be based on. They are not exactly the same or have a lot in common, but they have a deep passion, appreciation and love for each other and the differences that make up the power of their relationship. They do not even live together in the present day.
     Adam is a reluctant, depressed musician in the depleted outskirts of Detroit. Eve lives in Tangier, and is extremely close to an older vampire, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), yes, the one that is supposedly the true author behind Shakespeare, and that supplies here with blood that is not contaminated. Blood that is devilishly good and gives off a euphoric high. It is the present, so this is not like the TV series "True Blood" or modern-day vampire films where the vamps are killing in public constantly. Eve must get her blood like a junkie gets its drugs. Well, a little more sophisticated than that, but you get my drift. As for Adam, who buys exotic, classic instruments from his human or, as he calls them "zombies," friend Ian (Anton Yelchin), stays in hiding. He has money and buys his Type O-Negative blood from Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright) at a nearby hospital. The blood, much like Eve's, is pleasurable, and satiates his need. No going out in the night and killing the neighbors wife.
     Adam is fighting off suicidal tendencies due to his depression over the state of human existence and growth. He has asked Ian to have a wooden bullet made for him and he feels the degradation of society and culture has caused a severe lack of positivity for the future. The "zombies" have devolved into nothing and ruined all that is historical and culturally significant. Adam needs Eve to come to him and help him survive. Help fight off this urge. Eve plans a trip, but ensures that she flies always at night. In fact, the whole film takes place during the night and in dim-lighted rooms. The lighting and lensing, by cinematographer Yorick LeSaux, is mesmerizing. The real magic in this film is the chemistry and gorgeous intimacy between Adam and Eve.
     Jarmusch based his film on Mark Twain's "The Diaries of Adam and Eve," which is based in biblical roots, but not saturated with traditions. The most beautiful, and interesting, thing in Only Lovers Left Alive is the connectivity and differences between these two passionate lovers. Eve is a free spirit, cool lover, that appreciates all life has to offer. On the other hand, Adam is more negative, with a resistant spirit that feels that society is lost and all hope for the world is gone. In the film, much as with Twain's collections of short stories, expresses that just because two people are different and maybe do not have it all in common, does not mean they cannot be insane and passionate for one another. Love can be found and consumed in the subtle differences and ways in which we love. We do not have to be the same to fall madly in love. We can accept that love is a crazy ass, unschooled ideal, and when it works, it works. Similar or not in personality and traits. Our lives our are own and we must respect all that is involved if we are to continue an understanding in companionship and love.
     The film takes a turn when the younger sister of Eve, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), the poster child for the ill-informed, misguided youth culture, visits. She is one that does not understand the importance of culture, history or anything past what happened a few minutes ago. In one scene, Adam, Eve, Ava and Ian go to a club and see a rock band. They come home and she attempts to sleep with Ian after Adam and Eve have retired for the night. Once Adam and Eve awake, they see that she has gone wild and destroyed some of Adam's cherished instruments. The scene was powerful and brilliantly constructed by Jarmusch. A firm dissection and commentary on the youth's disrespect for anything not belonging to them and of cultural value. I love it, as well as the car rides Adam took Eve on to show her Detroit. It shows a city still in serious decline and how the beauty the city once possessed is all but gone. Not to mention the numerous references to how the arts, literature, music and paintings, have gone away and are not given the proper respect in today's society. All done with the classic Jarmusch touch of dry, calculated humor and wit.
     The cast in this film is absolutely perfect. Tilda Swinton, as always, is sensational as Eve. An intoxicating beauty amongst the living. She brings a cherished sincerity to life and where vampires are now. Nothing forced, and full of love and compassion, even in the midst of her needs. Tom Hiddleston is fantastic as Adam. Full of a severe depressed attitude and respect for the arts. Hiddleston is seriously funny, especially when saying little to nothing at all. Wait until you see the scenes with Wright. Really funny. Both are hipster vampires that respect culture and understand the changing of times and history. Jarmusch hipsters, so they are not annoying. Hurt is great and Yelchin and Wasikowska give their best performances of their young careers.
     It still comes back to Jim Jarmusch. This film was a collaboration between all involved, especially with Swinton, who he had mentioned the idea to over eight years ago. The film is a personal film and the beauties in love that are not always focused on the similarities, but the acceptance of the differences. The acceptance of each other for who they are and not who they are not. We do not have to be the exact same to fall in love and be in love. Jarmusch's writing is perfect and beyond the strong cultural references, is full of hilarious dialogue. I remember the first time I saw Down by Law and Dead Man, I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face. His humor is smart, and the wit and sarcasm is perfect. Situational, everyday comedy that can keep a smile on your face throughout the entirety of a film, but bust out with serious laughs at times. Jarmusch and his dry, minimalist films that have such depth and importance to the world around us. It is especially significant when you make a film about vampires, and the part of them being vampires is second to the importance of everything else going on. The film is about lovers and culture, revolving around two individuals that just happen to be vampires.
     I also must give much attention to the wonderful music that supports and travels throughout the whole film. Most of the music is by Jarmusch and his band Sqürl. A bluesy, rock-and-roll driven theme that accompanies the channeling minds of vampires in change. Vampires going through changing times and the devolution of society. The music is perfect. Nothing else can be said. Props to composer Jozef van Wissem. Music plays such an important part in Jarmusch's films. Enhancing the film, without stealing from the narrative. Can you imagine Down by Law without Tom Waits or Dead Man without Neil Young? Come on!
     Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive is just damn good. I have cherished and loved all of his work, and can honestly say this is one of his best. A film that revolves around romance, but has much deeper power and focus on the society and arts. The title says it all. Only Lovers Left Alive is just that and focuses the profound, deep love between those that appreciate the challenges and growth of thought and art. Also, I do not know how he does it, but the man knows how to be so damn funny at all these moments. The blend of serious characters and hilarious situations is deeply profound and amazing. These are hipster vampires and some of the coolest individuals around. Romantic lovers that fiend for each others love. I admired every second of this film. It is one of his best and something I cannot wait to see again to dive deeper into. A beautifully smart, funny film from the great Jim Jarmusch.

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