Only Lovers Left Alive: Jarmusch’s Return to Form, Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston

only_lovers_left_alive_posterAfter stumbling in several films (“The Limits of the Control”), Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, his minimalist, post-modern take on the vampire filmic mythology, is a step in the right director.

To be sure, the film, is a minor work in the oeuvre of the quintessentially independent American directors (one of few left around), but the melancholy mood and the great acting by the estimable ensemble elevate the text way above its spare and sparse narrative.

World-premiering in competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Fest, where Jarmusch has been a regular presence for the past three decades, the film will be released by Sony Classics in spring 2014.

As if setting to prove that that every director has to put his personal stamp on the ever-popular vampire genre, Jarmusch has constructed a slight love story that’s easy to take, though one would expect his to deviate from and tweak the genre’s conventions much more radically.

only_lovers_left_alive_6_swinton_hiddlestonJarmusch’s last film, “The Limits of Control,” was more ambitious (and pretentious) but completely non-commercial, a cipher that few viewers saw in theaters and even fewer bothered to appreciate or understand. Thus, it’s a relief to report that “Only Lovers Left Alive” is more accessible, in large part due to the performances of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in the lead roles.

Jarmusch acknowledges formally his longtime partner, Sara Driver, for “instigation and inspiration,” though I can only guess what precisely her contribution was to this quirk, laid-back romance.

only_lovers_left_alive_4_swintonOn one level, the tale is a celebration of the passion and bliss between two creatures who are have managed to stay in love and need each other, not for decades but for centuries.

It goes without saying that both are outcasts and outsiders, out of step with the modern world and surrounding reality. As such, they fit very well into Jarmusch’s gallery of laconic and mysterious characters. Well-cast,

 

Tilda Swinton plays Eve, an upbeat, optimistic femme, trying to cheer up her lover Adam (Hiddleston), who is more pessimistic, borderline suicidal. She spells out the merits of continuous living, such as enjoying Nature, expressing generosity and kindness, and even dancing.

only_lovers_left_alive_3_hiddlestonAs far as narrative conventions and cliches are concerned, this duo of vampires is nice, kind, and attractive. They make a point of getting their blood supply from hospitals rather than flesh-and-blood human beings, whom (in what must be an inside joke) they call zombies.

Make no mistakes: Adam and Eve are not modest or humble–they are quick to point out their contribution to art and letters, and the intellectual company they have spent time with, such as Shakespeare and Schubert, among others.

only_lovers_left_alive_2_swinton_hiddlestonIn another inside joke, Jarmusch makes specific allusion to the notion that it was actually Christopher Marlowe (nicely played by John Hurt as a vampire),who wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Early on in the saga, living in Tangiers (why there?), Marlowe socializes with Eve.

Adam and Eve are secure—perhaps too comfy for real drama–in their relationship to the point where separation and life in different continents makes no impact. Their love has survived and will continue to survive political and phsyical boundaries.

only_lovers_left_alive_7_hurtI have not liked much any Jarmusch films since “Dead Man,” the stylized black-and-white Western starring Johnny Depp and Robert Mitchum, and so watching “Only Lovers Left Alive”
proved to be a harmless, innocuous experience.