Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Finally! Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive was one of those films that sounded too good to be true. News of it slowly made it's way out into the world and was met with instant fascination. Casting such otherworldly beauties like Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as sharp-faced vampire lovers in a moody art film was an inspired choice. The dream cast was headed by a dream director, Jim Jarmusch, whose prior films are a collection of acclaimed indie movies like Stranger Than Paradise, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai and Coffee and Cigarettes. The internet waited with bated breath for this opus to be released. I was fully prepared to fling untold sums of money at it. Hilddles! Swinton! VAMPIRES!

Sadly, Only Lovers Left Alive received a very small American release and was in and out of theaters in a flash. It was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in April 2013 to great acclaim and went on to tour the usual film festivals afterwards. It would be a full year until it saw release in America. The waiting grew painful. The film had been in production for nearly seven years by the time it made it to our shores, surely I could wait a little bit longer. A DVD release was my only hope.

Finally, this weekend, I got to see Only Lovers Left Alive and I am glad to tell you it was COMPLETELY worth the wait. Only Lovers Left Alive is an atmospheric delight of a film, with long thoughtful pauses and actors who know how to manipulate silence just as well as their lines. The casting was truly inspired. Hiddleston is Adam, a depressed musician in Detroit who is growing increasingly sick of the world. His lover Eve, played by Swinton, is a book lover in Morocco who finally goes to see him to help him out of his funk.

Is it cliche to have a vampire suffer from ennui? Incredibly. Jarmusch completely turns the old sad vampire trope on it's head to create a beautiful film about the permeance of love, the frailty of fame and the weariness of existence.

The chemistry between Adam and Eve is incredible. They compliment each other fully and each gesture and look is pure love between them. You could kill a bull elephant with the level of chemistry they have. Swinton is amazing as smart, logical, playful Eve. Hiddleston's Adam is moody and brooding with an air of despair about him. He lives in an abandoned part of a Detroit and enjoys being a hermit. Eve gets him out, tries to get him living again.

Their sweet reconnection is shattered when Eve's sister Ava shows up, played by Mia Wasikowska. She's headstrong, annoying, part Eurotrash and part Bling Ring. Adam loathes her. Eve acts as a mother to her. She disrupts the fragile peace and quiet that Adam and Eve share. She's even so rude that she kills Adam's only friend, a human named Ian, played by the lovely Anton Yelchin. It's the last straw and it compromises Adam's home, so they escape back to Morocco where they must face the fact that their supply of pure blood is gone and they're possibly going to starve to death.

The vampire angle is so small in comparison to the rest of the film. They drink blood but it isn't the lurid Anne Rice type of blood drinking. Most humans at this point have blood that has been tainted, either with drugs or chemicals, and they find it hard to get a good source. Drinking blood is a dainty activity, done in small sherry glasses. A few sips brings each vamp to a state of euphoria that seems reminiscent of heroin usage. This is just one of the many examples of addiction the film explores. I wish I was back in college, I could write a fifty page dissertation on all the layers this film has.   

There have been some comparisons to The Hunger, which I feel is rather false. Apart from David Bowie and Tilda Swinton being from the same alien race, the films are very different in tone and substance. Only Lovers Left Alive unfurls slowly and has none of the slapdash energy of the 80's vampire flick. It's more languid, quiet and thoughtful. There's no growling Bauhaus soundtrack, only the mournful drone of Adam's own experimental rock funeral music.

Only Lovers Left Alive is astoundingly romantic, exceptionally witty and has an effortless cool about it that is enviable. It's filmed entirely at night so the shadows become characters unto themselves, making the vampire pair seem stark and foreign under the direct lighting of an airport. Adam and Eve trade stories about old friends (Byron, apparently, was an asshole) while playing chess and eating frozen bloodpops and it feels more normal and romantic than any romantic scene I've seen on film in years.

I can't say enough how much I loved this moody little film. It was just amazing. Amazing characters and lush cinematography turn it into an instant classic not only of the vampire genre but of all movies. I can not recommend it enough. Go and see it this instant.
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