Title: Only Lovers Left Alive
Country: UK, Germany, Greece
Language: English, French, Arabic, Turkish
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Jozef van Wissem
Cinematography: Yorick Le Saux
Jarmusch’s latest offering is a tall tale of the nocturnal vampires when immortality overkills, one pair of centuries-old vampires, Eve (Swinton) and Adam (Hiddleston) resides in Tangier and Detroit respectively, reunites to brave themselves in the dismal of human race’s sovereign (in the fanged’s term, we are called “zombies”) since Adam is referred as “a suicidal romantic scoundrel”.
A gramophone plays the psychedelic song FUNNEL OF LOVE from Wanda Jackson, introduces us to the rooms of the separated couple with whirling cranes shots resolving into a spinning vinyl, effectively sets the pervading tone of self-indulgence and apathy, not a subtle reference to compare vampires with drug addicts. Eve and Adam, both with long and fluffy perms, she roams in the exotic alleys and reaches another vampire Kit Marlowe (Hurt) for top-notch o-negative blood to feed; while Adam, a reclusive musician, receives a visit from his only human contact Ian (Yelchin), who brings him vintage musical instruments, yet the poker-faced humour sneaks in when Ian asks to use the bathroom, Adam can only claim the bathroom is not working and say “please feel free to piss in the garden”. Later, he surreptitiously appears in a hospital and buys blood from Dr. Watson (Wright),
Adam has been disillusioned by the human world for too long, he even asks Ian to make a wooden bullet, intends to commit suicide. So Eve flies to Detroit to cheer him up, their happy time doesn’t last long, soon Ava (Wasikowska), Eve’s flirtatious and spoiled younger sister pays a visit, and an incident ensues. Eve and Adam fly back to Tangier, but their life is hanging on a thread because of long-distance flight without any blood intake and the purveyor Marlow’s failing health, the third act plays out with a soul-sucking dreariness as they wander in the middle-east town like two listless druggies in terrible form desperately looking for supply, then decide to give up and waiting for the sunrise, only in the last moment, they reveal their fangs to a pair of local young lovers.
This is my third entry into Jarmusch’s filmic realm (after COFFEE AND CIGARETTES 2003, and BROKEN FLOWERS 2005), in his world of vampires, they are self-disciplined citizens (never rashly jump on human preys), wallow in a nostalgic schmaltz and cynical about the mundane reality (from literary, history to science and technology), from the mouthpiece of Adam and Eve, it actually reflects Jarmusch’s own discontent not only to the contemporary life but the entire human history as well (e.g. Hurt’s Kit Marlow is the man who writes all Shakespeare’s works), it is way too personal and direct to be appreciative, audience needs to obtain his or her own opinion through the imagery and information the director offers, not being coerced and spoon-fed like that. Also, it is slightly obnoxious when Eve and Adam flaunt their omniscient knowledge about the texture, date and brand of musical instruments, species’ scientific names and even quantum theory, it seems that Jarmusch tries very hard to squeeze some poetic meaningfulness through the duo’s witness of eons, yet it only comes off as pretentious and out-of-place.
Swinton and Hiddleston pulls off a distinctive whiff of nihilistic hipsters, albeit the 20-year-old age gap, their harmonious temperament is the trump card of the film to lure us to stay with them the entire journey. Wasikowska’s Ava is an eye-sore, as an immortal creature, she is generically depicted as a wanton troublemaker without any hint of wisdom accrual after all these centuries. What is more excruciating banal is that even fully realise what she is capable of doing, Adam and Eve still can be remiss enough to allow the tragedy happen, it is just a cheap strategy for the screenwriter (Jarmusch, again). John Hurt gives the impression that he is just back from the set of SNOWPIERCER (2013), and his inexplicable death is totally bananas.
On the plus side, Jarmusch picks two great locations, Detroit, a finished city engulfed by darkness whereas Tangier, the off-beat middle east exotica, all perfectly align with the tenor. So is the entrancing soundtrack, composed by Jarmusch’s own band SQÜRL and Jozef van Wissem, mind-blowing and nerve-numbing.
One final thoughts, Eve and Adam spend most time indoors, listening to vinyls and doing nothing, why they never watch movies? I would be delighted if I were immortal and have all the time in the world to watch films and there is always more to come, it is a cinephile’s optimum fantasy.