on 24 February 2014
Jim Jarmusch doesn’t make that many films, and consequently those that come along are to be treasured. For me this is the best thing Jarmusch has done since the outstanding Ghost Dog (Way of the Samurai) some fourteen years since; Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton are perfectly cast as world-weary but resolute-in-their-love vampires, attempting to live in human society (he in Detroit, she in North Africa) without ripping-out necks or picking-off unwary victims. Instead, alongside John Hurt’s immortal Elizabethan playwright Kit Marlowe, they survive by bribing various hospital staff for packets of blood, and whiling away the hours either in paralyzing ennui or orgasmic haemoglobic satisfaction. When Swinton’s characters’ sister – the rebellious Ava, arrives on the scene however, the lovers’ idyll is brutally interrupted, and the pair have to face up to the reality that they will never simply be able to co-exist with the ‘zombies’ (their name for non-vampire types), but are forever doomed to live in the shadows.
Jarmusch’s trademark languor and listlessness is present in spades, but the film still works, thanks chiefly to the powerful central performances, that finds a triumvirate of world-class actors (ably supported by Anton Yelchin and Mia Wasikowska) at the very top of their game, and a director who is confident enough to eschew pyrotechnics and gratuitous gore in favour of seamlessly superior film-making.
on 7 March 2014
I'm not a fan of art house, or pretentious movies, but this could not be further from that. Tilda and Tom are a delight, the soundtrack is awesome and the story is beautiful. Life affirming, beautiful, sweet and hilarious (which no one seems to mention!) this is genuinely funny. Heart warming and loving, you can't help but walk out of the cinema smiling. I've seen it three times and would watch it over and over and over.
on 29 May 2014
I fully expected not to like this film, which from many media reviews sounded pretentious and self-aware. Well, it is self-aware - but I was pleasantly surprised to find that in this case, self-awareness is part of the film's quirky charm. It was also this reviewer's first Jarmusch film, although familiar with his work by reputation.
This is a film that will appeal most to those tickled by underground communities and subterranean lives, and to the die-hard vampire/Euro-Goth crowd - but the adult one. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play Adam and Eve, aged vampires who have been married for centuries. Unlike most other old married couples, the bloom of romance still clings to this rose - perhaps because the couple have been wise enough to live far apart: she in Tangier, he in an old row house in burned-out Detroit. Adam is a musician whose work has ranged from classical chamber music in the 19th century (some of which he allowed Franz Schubert to pass off as his own), and, in the 20th century, moving successfully into rock 'n' roll where Adam became an elusive musical legend rarely seen by the public.
As the film opens, Adam is going through a phase of existential angst and is considering sending a wooden bullet through his undead heart. Hiddleston's understated delivery just manages to save Adam from coming across as petulant rather than despondent. Eve, by contrast, is a serene, rather Zen sort of vampire: a student of life in all forms, interested in all that the cosmos contains, from botany to astronomy. Eve has a unique gift: the ability to tell the age of any object by running her hands over it, which is useful in assessing additions to Adam's huge collection of valuable old guitars and other string instruments. When Eve realizes how dispirited Adam is, she flies to Detroit to find out what's bothering him, and the film unfolds from there. Amusing cultural references include hints about the water shortage that climate change will bring about, Eve's closeness to Elizabethan writer, Christopher Marlowe (absently yet tenderly played by John Hurt) who also lives in Tangier, and is not only also a vampire but, as some have always suspected, the true author of Shakespeare's output. Additional environmental warnings appear framed in the lack of a healthy blood supply. Eve and Adam and Marlowe obtain theirs through hospital contacts - killing is a last resort. Jeffrey Wright puts in a brief but drily funny cameo as the pathologist who keeps Adam stocked with quality O Negative. The vampires all take their daily nourishment in delicate port glasses as they awaken at twilight, going into momentary orgasmic comas as they do so. Adam's contempt for humans, whom he refers to as "zombies" for poisoning not only their water and food, but their own blood, is profound.
Shortly after Eve arrives in Detroit to cheer Adam, her mischievous sister, Ava, a reckless vampire of barely 87 years old (Mia Wasikowska), shows up, and wreaks enough havoc in 24 hours to make it advisable for Adam to return to Tangier with Eve. However, things in Tangier have taken an alarming turn, as the two vampires find that formerly reliable hospital blood is now severely tainted and lethal. As the film drifts languidly to its close, Adam and Eve are forced to contemplate returning to "15th century" modes of survival.
The film is quiet, slow, and beautifully photographed: it manages to turn the wreck of Detroit at night into a Gothically romantic setting, as Adam in an old car shows Eve the sights, such as Detroit's stately old movie theater and the now defunct Packard factory. The soundtrack contains music from Jarmusch's own group, SQIRL.
The cast is enchanting. The pairing of the 50-year-old Swinton and the barely-over-30 Hiddleston as clearly karmically matched lovers seems at first like an odd choice, but it makes sense as Eve's much wiser and more regulated temperament is shown. The two very attractive stars make it work effortlessly; there is no attempt to make Swinton "look younger", which is nice, but the pairing also demonstrates that fifty is not exactly crone territory, and Swinton is still a beautiful woman. I was particularly taken with Swinton's subtle use of her eyes and head movements to suggest a creature who looks human but . . . isn't . . . quite. Both stars have beautiful voices to listen to and calibrated their performances perfectly to the pace and atmosphere of the film. Mia Wasikowska made the most of her brief role as the heedless, narcissistic young sister whose mischief sets the second half of the film in motion.
"Only Lovers Left Alive" is something of an acquired taste, apparently: you either fall immediately for its slow charm, or you walk out half an hour after it starts. If explosions, speed, and films where something happens every twenty seconds is your cup of tea, this film definitely won't be: very little "happens". Fortunately, this reviewer fell quickly under its spell, and actually went to see it a second time.
on 13 March 2014
I must admit, when I heard it was a vampire film I was a little sceptical. The rather baffling Twilight frenzy was still fresh in my mind, & I felt that I'd had my fill of the undead for the time being. However, Jarmusch's story is unlike any other vampire film I've seen before. It isn't a schmaltzy tale for tweens, nor a bloodfest for the horror lovers. It's cool, cultured and charismatic, and feels more like an observation of two characters that happen to be vampires than it does a vampire film. It's also surprisingly funny - Adam (Hiddleston) in particular has some rather wonderful lines, which are topped off with gloriously deadpan delivery.
The whole film is visually beautiful, with such detail in every scene (particularly those in Adam's house, which is so richly textured it's worth a second watch just to see what you missed the first time round). Also worth noting is the music, which is incredibly atmospheric & adds a lot to the feel of the film - for me, it was a highlight & I look forward to getting my hands on the soundtrack.
As far as the acting goes, I cannot fault it. I'd not seen much with Tilda Swinton or Tom Hiddleston in, so for me, they were a wonderful surprise. Both were truly marvellous as these beautiful, captivating and somewhat ethereal creatures. The characters are snobbish & world-weary, but the chemistry & mutual passion, that is still very much present after many centuries of being together, makes them endearing & somewhat enviable.
It isn't heavily plot driven. The plot points act more like minor speed bumps, to shake the characters & give them something to react to. It isn't a crash, bang, wallop kind of film, which means if won't be a film for everyone. It's about living, loving and making the best out of a world you can no longer understand. And it really is remarkable.
on 2 November 2014
"Only Lovers Left Alive" is a film that's both poetic and ironic - it's underground, languid and cool. If you're not on it's wavelength it may just seem slow, but if you relax and give yourself over to its we've-got-all-the-time-in-the-world pacing, you begin to enter its hypnotic stream, and then what a pleasure it becomes. The film deals with love and mortality - the passage of time, what's of value and lasts, and what is just of the moment. There also is a generational theme, embodied in the four vampire characters (relative to vampire years): childhood, adolescence, mature adult, and old age. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddelston, as Adam and Eve, make a lovely and deeply romantic vampire couple - one for whom endless time has not been wasted - they're philosophical, sophisticated and so much in love. Tilda and Tom are perfection in these roles, their chemistry really holds the film together. John Hurt is the elder vampire mentor, Kit Marlowe, who has seen it all and has described it profoundly in the writings attributed to Shakespeare (a humorous dig at the old bard). About half way in the film, Ava, Eve's impulsive little vampire-sprite of a sister, enters the scene like a whirlwind out of L.A. ("Zombie Central") and proceeds to upend Adam and Eve's gentle world. Mia Wasikowska has a hell of a good time playing Ava as a wild, touchy-feely little jungle cat, always hungry, looking for diversion and a means to quench her endless thirst. Where Adam and Eve contemplate eternity, art and science, and a loving connection, Ava demands to be fed and wants to party. Finally, Ava's dangerous urges create a crisis that forces the vampire couple to set another whole course. "Only Lovers Left Alive" is sensual and delicate with beautiful cinematography and a wonderfully evocative soundtrack. The film is refreshing and manages to be both contemplative and funny, a welcomed antidote to our ADHD society and all it's endless noise, "full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing".
I guess we're all sick of angst-ridden teenage vampires with high-school hang-ups and gelled-back hair. Jim Jarmusch injects some much needed life into the genre with this achingly beautiful fable of mature and world-weary vampires dealing with the practicalities of (un-)life in the 21st century and attempting to squeeze every last drop out of their existence.
The ever enigmatic and fascinating Tilda Swinton puts in her most memorable performance since Orlando and simply oozes dangerous (but playful) sexuality as Eve. Tom Hiddleston is perfect as her younger (if indeed age means anything?) lover. He is the more blasé of the couple, enjoying his own company for the most part and spending his waking hours composing haunting music in a minor key. John Hurt puts in a stoic and often amusing performance as the ageing Christopher Marlowe. The arrival of Eve's bitchy and anarchic younger sister Ava destroys what passes for cosy domesticity in vampire circles. No spoilers - just watch and enjoy.
It's beautifully filmed, with scene after scene which could be hung in the Tate or Prado. In fact, Only Lovers succeeds in feeling both modern and very ancient.
Great use of surround sound and a stirring and memorable soundtrack - the main theme often reprised during the film rings faint echoes of The Velvet Underground's Venus in Furs.
Not high on action, but a slow-burning masterpiece, with exquisite audio, video and performances all round.
on 19 April 2014
The best vampire movie yet, brilliant acting and very good soundtrack. It isn't action packed, but Jim Jarmush certainly can tell a story.
on 9 August 2014
One of those films where you really want to stay with these characters for much longer than the length of the film. It's basically very funny, with amazing performances from everyone. It's like a very real slice of these vampires' 'lives', and you really buy into it (well, I did!). Tom Hiddleston manages to make his character extremely likeable, despite being pretty morose all the time. It's a gorgeous film, and I enjoyed every minute of it in the cinema, so am looking forward very much to owning it on DVD!
on 12 November 2014
I'm not really sure what else I could possibly add to this review when others have done far better job before me but I really wanted to show my love for this film somehow and I thought this would be the best way to do it!.
I'm a massive fan of the vampire genre (not Twilight though!), so thats the only real reason I bought this film, but the whole vampire part is just left in the background and the story is focused on two people who are in love and have been married for centuries. If that sounds dull and boring then trust me when I say its not. Its a slow burner for sure, but it's beautifully shot, well written and Tilda and Tom are just awesome in it. I was also suprised by the very dead pan sence of humour it has and the soundtrack, which is briliant!.
The premise of this movie might make the more jaded moviegoer roll their eyes. Another story of thin, pale, artistic vampires angsting over their immortality?
But consider: Jim Jarmusch is the director, and it stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.
Yep. Even though the vampire craze burned itself out a year or two ago, "Only Lovers Left Alive" shows that it will never truly die. This is no teen romance starring gel-haired models -- this is a melancholy, bittersweet tale of love, blood and rock'n'roll, drifting in its own little moonlit world. Swinton and Hiddleston are truly sublime as longtime loves who draw strength from each other, but have trouble with the visiting relatives.
Adam (Hiddleston) is a standard vampire -- he's lived for many centuries, and now he's depressed by the way the world is turning out. He spends all his time hiding in a decrepit Detroit house, recording shoegazer music and uploading it anonymously onto the Internet. His only contact with the outside world is when he buys blood donations from a hospital, and when his "zombie" Ian (Anton Yelchin) brings him new vintage guitars.
So he pays Ian to make him a wooden bullet, planning to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart. But his wife Eve (Swinton), who has been living in Tangiers for some years, senses his despair and decides to come visit him.
The two lovers reunite, and Eve manages to pull Adam from his stupor -- talking, dancing, chess, blood popsicles, lovemaking (implied) and late-night meanderings through the empty streets. But then Eve's sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) makes herself at home in Adam's house, disrupting their lives with her reckless behavior. And when she does something unforgivable, she may force Adam and Eve to leave as well.
The vampires of "Only Lovers Left Alive" are very different from the sleek kind you find in most movies -- they have wild untamed hair, odd clothing, and live in shadowy houses cluttered with whatever they love. Mostly they drift around the night, having odd elliptical conversations that subtly hint at how different they from humans ("I just feel like all the sand is at the bottom of the hour glass or something").
The first half of the movie is about Eve and Adam reconnecting, and how she gradually drags him out of his self-indulgent torpor. But the second half is sparked off by the presence of Ava -- she's pretty clearly going to cause problems right from the start, which sends the lovers spiraling off into the night.
I know, it sounds tedious... but the mixture of vampires, rock'n'roll and romance is strangely hypnotic. Jarmusch's direction is dreamlike and languid here, drifting over the vampire's faces as they lose themselves in their dances and blood ecstasy. Grittiness, decay, pale golden light in the streets. But he sharpens his focus in the latter half, as the lovers encounter a real problem that they have to deal with.
Also, Christopher Marlowe (as played by John Hurt) appears in this for... some reason. I think it's just to awkwardly air Jarmusch's anti-Stratfordian sentiments, but the significance of this character is... completely unknown.
It's hard to imagine two better actors for this movie than Swinton and Hiddleston. They LOOK like vampires -- tall, slender, androgynous and pale as the moon. Swinton plays Eve as a roaming bibliophile who soaks up knowledge like a sponge, delighting in the many things she's seen and done; Hiddleston's Adam is a moody, melancholy mess who hides away from the problems -- and the joys -- of life. They beautifully exude the air of a couple who has been together literally for ages; after years apart, they reunite with a warmth devoid of awkwardness, as if Eve had only left for a weekend.
"Only Lovers Left Alive" is a vampire romance for the people sick of vampire romances -- a languid, rock'n'roll-infused tale of joie-de-vivre lost and regained. A work of art, and worth it alone for the performances by Swinton and Hiddleston.