ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (R) It should be expected that when writer/director Jim Jarmusch made a vampire movie, he would pull off the unexpected. This is not Twilight or True Blood or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even. Only Lovers Left Alive is a full-on romance (albeit dark and twisted) about two complicated, sophisticated and individualistic lovers who also happen to be blood suckers. If you had to compare it to previous vampire movies, Harry Kmel’s cult fave Daughters of Darkness and Michael Almereyda’s idiosyncratic lo-fi Nadja come to mind, more so than a traditional take on the genre or something like the previously mentioned contemporary revisionist interpretations. It is very much a vampire movie, but one transfused through the fertile imagination of one of America’s great independent filmmakers.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), vampires and longtime lovers for hundreds of years, live among us humans (the mopey, depressed Adam refers to us as zombies) and feed on clean, untainted blood obtained from various inside sources in the medical profession. Although deeply in love, Adam and Eve live in separate parts of the globe—Eve in exotic Tangiers and Adam in decrepit, abandoned Detroit. Adam spends his solitary nights recording music and sometimes dealing with his de facto Renfield, Ian (Anton Yelchin), who obtains rare guitars and other items for his mysterious, reclusive benefactor. Eve, the more emotionally sturdy of the two, spends her nights with her great friend Marlowe (John Hurt)—the Christopher Marlowe—and talks with her lover via video Skype, patiently waiting out his fixation on morbid self-attention. Eve eventually journeys to Detroit to reunite with her lover, but when Eve’s sister, the manic pixie blood sucker Ava (Mia Wasikowska), unexpectedly shows up, the forces of chaos threaten to engulf them all.
From its hallucinatory opening shot (many of the movie’s sequences visually refer to circles as a symbol of unity), Only Lovers Left Alive delves into the heart of the matter, cinematically examining what it means to be vulnerably human although its protagonists are beyond our flesh and blood. Jarmusch’s characteristic deadpan humor is firmly in place, though his insights into what makes couples groove are more penetrating than ever. It’s arguably his finest work to date and an extraordinary variation on the vampire myth. Languorously paced and staunchly anti-plot-driven, Only Lovers Left Alive always feels vibrant, vital and dreamily content to wallow amidst the ruination of modern life: this is cinema as narcotic, and it’s incandescent.
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