May 11, 2014

Movie Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

So, the other night I ventured out to a local arthouse theater for the first time in ages. It is not that I don't like the theater, but most of the films I have wanted to see there have come to other more convenient theaters. Now, while I was there I realized something else, I don't fit in there. The audience was filled with hipsters and what I call arthouse condescenders. I am much more at home with grimy horror and exploitation aficionados, but that is neither here nor there. What is important, above whoever shows up to a screening is the movie itself. In this case we have Only Lovers Left Alive.

The film was written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, an arthouse mainstay whose films would have to be considered an acquired taste. I have seen a few of his films over the years, some I have quite liked, such as Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Mystery Train, and Dead Man. Now we have a look at a Jarmusch created vampire tale. It is a far cry from the recent trend of mortal friendly, sparkly vampire types that have had their menace stripped away. These vampires are loners, not looking for any public attention, but are also not to be trifled with.

Only Lovers Left Alive is the mirror universe version of Queen of the Damned. The latter was not a good movie, but looked at vampires as literal rock stars, living a shielded, but still quite public life, making no attempts to really cover themselves. With Only Lovers Left Alive, we have a vampire who creates music out of boredom, it seems, and his wife. They live their lives avoiding the spotlight. They have lived for centuries, absorbing culture, inspiring artists, creating some of the world's greatest art, seeing the squandering of scientific minds. The end result seems to be their existence becoming a life of contemplation on life.

This is not to say it is a great movie, I do not believe it is. It is a good one, and not what I was expecting it to be. Of course, I had seen the trailer once before seeing it and that was the total sum of my knowledge of the movie. We are essentially dropped into the lives of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), we follow them, experience some of their lives and then it ends. It is not so much a tale with a traditional plot, rather we are given elements that could amount to a plot but are actually just things that happen and ultimately lead nowhere.

It is a movie that is intriguing and frustrating, and perhaps a touch silly. I sat there waiting for something to happen. The people that show up at Adam's in the middle of the night, more with the relationship with Ian, more with Marlowe (John Hurt), some payoff to something, but it never came. It later dawned on me that it was not about the plot, it was just about being there, bearing witness to these aged vampires contemplate their lot in life, where they are, where they could go. Certainly a blend of highbrow concept and lowbrow content.

The movie is a good one. I loved the look and both Hiddleston and Swinton give interesting takes on vampires. Sure, I wish there was a more traditional plot, but I should have known that going in I was not going to get it. As a slice of life type movie, there is a lot to absorb. I do not think it is nearly as deep as the arthouse condescenders want to make it seem to be, but at the same time it does offer a look at life as a vampire and what that may entail that is well worth exploring.

In the end, Only Lovers Left Alive is a worthy addition to vampire film lore, not exactly successful, but definitely more substantial than you may initially think. It is worth the time invested to explore its contents.


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