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Jarmusch’s 'Only Lovers Left Alive' Proves Humans are the True Monsters

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are two vampires who are tired of being tired in 'Only Lovers Left Alive'


Needless to say, Ava’s arrival and behavior aggravate the delicate existence Adam has taken the trouble to establish. Soon, he and Eve have some hard choices: Stay in Detroit? Go to Tangier? Find something new?

There isn’t much more to Only Lovers Left Alive, narrative-wise. Jarmusch spends a lot of time in Adam’s house, watching him brood, with beautiful cinematography by Yorick Le Saux. This isn’t the Jarmsuchiest of Jarmusch films—that honor would probably go to The Limits of Control—but all the hallmarks are there, including the aforementioned long silences, along with the exacting camera work and equally precise performances.

The cinematography has a meditative quality to it. The shots of the vampires preparing to drink—Adam, Eve and Marlowe—are the showiest, with spinning overhead angles. It’s only appropriate that when Ava drinks, the camera work is designed to look as careless as she is.

In the end, Jarmusch doesn’t add any new twists to vampire mythology, but he uses the basics in new ways. In addition to the wood bullet, there are some nifty means by which Adam carries blood (note: he, Eve and Marlowe don’t prey on the living—it creates too many problems).

In William Goldman’s book Which Lie Did I Tell?, he shares a story about working on the screenplay for Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Star Chevy Chase wanted the story to be about the loneliness of invisibility. If you’ve seen Memoirs of an Invisible Man, you know they missed that mark.

Jarmusch, by contrast, gets loneliness, and Hiddleston in particular is adept at showing what that feeling looks like on a once-human face. It’s morose, but also quietly appealing. Maybe that’s why this vampire story is effective when so many others merely suck.

Only Lovers Left Alive (R)

Writ. and dir. Jim Jarmusch; feat. Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt
★★★★ 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Opens Fri, May 9 at Santikos Bijou

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