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 adore Terence Davies, he makes films that are almost exquisite paintings, beautiful to look at and rarely anything less than an absolute joy to watch. So of course very excited by the news that he was directing the classic Terrence Rattigan play complete with Rachel Weisz, who seems to be going from strength to strength and doesn’t annoy me anything like as much as she used to. And it was picked to close the festival – perfect, there would be free chocolate too.
The Deep Blue Sea is undeniably lovely to look at, Davies daubs his scenes in rich muted colours giving a real sense of the post-war period. It’s dark and evocative and a bit dangerous – it should have been mesmerising. But it isn’t, it’s a bit fur coat and no knickers, as my gran would have said.
I think it’s that age old problem of translating from the stage – it’s hard to bring life to something that has been conceived as a play on the big screen no matter how stunning you make it look. Weisz tries her best but the flames of passion between Hester and Freddie (played by Tom Hiddleston) have long spluttered out and it’s hard to imagine that they were there at all – neither character really give us a sense of the passion that has supposedly driven them to such extremes and the one sex scene between them is strangely sterile. Freddie just seems a bit immature and annoying to me. He’s no Ryan Gosling, frankly. It’s also hard too to understand why Hester ever married William, Simon Russell Beale doesn’t really instil him with any sort of magnetism, he’s just an old grump. Which all makes Hester look a bit more histrionic than tortured and it’s hard to care much whether she sticks her head in the gas oven or not.
It made me sad not to love it though. I had to come home and watch Of Time and the City again to remind me what a god Davies is. Now there’s a film.