Vampire movies have quickly become the Dunkin’ Donuts of the silver screen. Delicious flavor dulled by mass saturation. What originated as a sensual parable of lust and everlasting life is now the stuff of pop music and TMZ. Simply put, the genre needs a jolt and who better to do so is the father of American indie cinema Jim Jarmusch. His latest cattle prod, Only Lovers Left Alive, is a darkly comic story of modern day Dracula’s dealing with a world that’s rapidly becoming too tainted to taste.
The first side of the vampiric equation is Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a reclusive genius who has been feeding musical innovations to well-known artists for centuries. The world we know it owes a great debt to his sharply tuned mind. In a far cry from his work as the Avenger’s Loki, Hiddleston shows exceptional restraint and control in the brooding lead. Although he sometimes fades to the background when he shares the screen, he’s at this best when paired with his wife (Tilda Swinton). The two have a naturally kinetic sexual chemistry that mirrors classic vampire dramas.
The lady in question is Eve, a character Tilda Swinton gives an air of grace and gentility, a nice counterpoint to Adam’s sullen demeanor. She’s been spending her days in Tangiers, getting her blood supply from fellow sharp tooth Christopher Marlowe (yes, THAT Christopher Marlowe), played by John Hurt. After a video call with Adam, Eve becomes concerned with his state of mind and joins him in his dilapidated Detroit home. Once the couple becomes reunited, the pacing drags to a crawl but some smart injections of Eve’s younger sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) and Adam’s human lapdog Ian (Anton Yelchin) inject energy and life where it’s needed most.
Like anything in his filmography, Jarmusch has his style stamped on every frame. From the rhythmic record spin of the opening to the wonderful way he builds tension from quiet moments, the director of Stranger Than Paradise and Broken Flowers is in top form. With an exceptional combination of dark humor, subtle cinematography and good character building, Jarmusch’s eleventh feature brims with original ideas.
Even stronger than his vision behind the camera is his exceptional ear for music. As long time fans will agree, his soundtracks have never been secondary and in Only Lovers Left Alive, it again plays a prominent role. Adam’s primary artistic outlet is music and it’s in his compositions where we learn much of his emotional backstory. Framed almost like a musical, the score runs from rumbling electro synth to classic Charlie Feathers tunes and culminates with an entrancing performance by Lebanese vocalist Yasmine Hamdan.
When a genre becomes diluted to tap water, it becomes easy to ignore. Most of us need another bloodsucker story like a hole in the head. In true auteur fashion, Jim Jarmusch reminds us there’s still ore to be mined from the classic tale. With razor sharp wit, lovely performances and an eye for the super cool, Only Lovers Left Alive is a downbeat bit of undead goodness. Eat your heart out, Robert Pattinson. Twilight hasn’t ruined it all just yet.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Jersey born and New York bred, Bill Tucker is a writer of short fiction, film reviews and articles across a variety of genres and media. He currently writes a regular movie column entitled “Behind the Cinematic Curtain” for Revolt Daily, contributes to a fashion blog for http://www.pop-market.com and has a number of short stories in various stages of publication. When not writing, he works as an IT Trainer for a fashion software company. He currently hangs his hat in Austin, Texas. Check out more of his work at http://www.thesurrealityproject.com.