Only Lovers Left Alive (London Film Festival 2013)
I’ve been a fan of Jim Jarmusch for quite a while, so Only Lovers Left Alive was one of my most anticipated festival screenings: a vampire comedy with Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as ageless lovers swept away in modern subcultures. Sadly, very little of the dry humour clicked and, while the soundtrack suitably rocked, Jarmusch’s sharp wit is noticeably absent.
Jarmusch’s films typically find funny juxtapositions through outsiders ruining settled rhythms. However, the two protagonists share similar personalities that run into severe repetition and diminishing returns. The vampires, named Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton), have lasted for generations, only to be confounded by society’s infiltration of zombies (a nickname for humans) and rockers. After a brief break of 87 years (they do have a lot of time to kill), Eve leaves the spirituality of Tangier to rejoin Adam’s gothic den in Detroit. Their conversations might appeal to newcomers unfamiliar with Jarmusch’s language, but the drop in quality is evident by a running joke of “bloody” as an adjective. Elsewhere, the pair riff aimlessly on science and the burden of technology, as if the viewer also shares the luxury of infinite time.
Eve’s fascination with diamonds forming in space recalls “Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds”; The Beatles pay further influence with the tripped out reactions to drinking blood. That psychedelic pleasure is at odds with the duo’s moody exhaustion with life – or, at least, Adam’s stubbornness. The film certainly picks up when Eve’s sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska) briefly appears as a bouncy intruder – as I mentioned earlier, Jarmusch works best when juxtaposing outsider personalities. Eva also possesses the best line: “I was born at night. I wasn’t born last night.” However, she’s gone after 10 minutes, and it’s back to eternity.
Only Lovers Left Alive is the London Film Festival’s “Cult” gala screening. More information can be found here.
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