Aside from Mystery Train, and Ghost Dog, I always feel I should enjoy Jim Jarmusch’s films more. He knows how to put super-cool on film, and he can create a mood effortlessly, but frankly I like a bit more of a story. Only Lovers Left Alive is no exception, although it’s probably his best for a while. It’s also all the L-words you can think of: louche, languid, listless, lyrical… and slightly long.
It’s the story of Adam and Eve, two vampires who got married centuries ago and are finding the being around forever aspect of vampiring a bit wearying. They are quite bored of each other but still somehow madly in love. Tilda Swinton’s Eve is hanging out in Tangier, exquisitely dressed and gliding through the streets at night like an exotic spectre while being brought top notch blood by Kit Marlow (John Hurt). Tom Hiddleston’s Adam, on the other hand, looks like he hasn’t had a bath for a while and is utterly fed up with the state of the world and particularly repelled by the ‘zombies’ as he refers to the unfortunate living people he is forced to hang around with. I suppose if you’d spent your life chewing the fat with Byron and writing symphonies for Schubert you might find the average Joe a bit less than cultured too. He fills his lonely hours roaming round a crumbling Detroit mansion filled with expensive guitars and vinyl, ever the rock star, and fretting about what will become of the things he loves in a world hell-bent on destruction.
Eve flies to Detroit to lift Adam from his despair, and the pair spend their nights driving round this beautifully desolate city – the images of downtown Detroit are nothing short of stunning – and deep in conversation about their past. It takes the arrival of Mia Wasikowska as Adam’s sister Ava to liven things up – she prefers to drink blood fresh from the source (oopsy) which causes a spot of bother. She disappears too soon, sadly.
Only Lovers Left Alive is beautiful to look at, easily has the two hippest vampires ever seen on screen – and it’s very funny. But to be honest, the ten minutes of Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best! that I missed to get to this screening on time weighed heavy on me.
I go to the cinema a lot, so I’d seen the trailer for this countless times which is always a bit annoying – especially when you end up feeling like you’ve already seen half of the film. It has been much talked about and ended up winning best film of the LFF against some really strong competition, but to be honest it left me a bit cold.
I hadn’t read the book so had no preconceptions about the story but am a big fan of Lynne Ramsay so had high hopes – such a shame that she didn’t get to make The Lovely Bones – it would have been a completely different and without a doubt a much better film if she’d had got to grips with it. So this is her first shot at a major movie, and it’s done with style. She gets what is sure to be an award winning performance from Tilda Swinton (who has since annoyed the tits off me by implying movies are beneath her lofty intellectual ideals) and the various Kevins are magnetic, particularly middle Kevin. It’s a strong film in many ways and I am sure people will rave about it.
So why didn’t it strike home with me? I think because it lacked any real warmth and to care about the bad bits, I need to care about the people they are happening to. Even the usually reliable John C Reilly was wet as a wet thing and Eva seemed to have no redeeming features whatsoever. For me, too, the red symbolism was a bit overdone although admittedly the opening dream sequences of the tomato festival are stunning. It certainly isn’t a bad film and marks a successful shift into the mainstream for Ramsay.
On a side note, I learned that Lionel is a girl’s name too. So there you go.