hannah and her sisters (woody allen, 1986)
best films of 2015

only lovers left alive (jim jarmusch, 2013)

The IMDB trivia page for Only Lovers Left Alive includes this perhaps apocryphal story. “There was some action in the film at first. But when Jim Jarmusch was asked to add more he instead removed all of it.” This stands as a warning to anyone thinking, “Oh boy, a vampire movie! I bet a lot happens!”

There are elements of Performance (Tom Hiddleston plays a reclusive rocker) and The Hunger (Tilda Swinton is an even whiter version of Catherine Deneuve). Eve (Swinton ... Hiddleston is Adam) at one point chastises Adam for not taking advantage of everything eternal life has to offer. “How can you've lived for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living. It could be spent in surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship, and dancing.” Adam, the recluse, gives the impression he could stay home every day for a hundred years. Even when Adam’s loneliness draws him to be closer to Eve, he won’t leave his home in Detroit, forcing her to come from Tangiers. Eve and Adam are in love with aesthetics, as is Jarmusch in this film. They get their blood from sources that resemble drug dealers ... no messy biting of humans. Much of Only Lovers Left Alive is, ironically, rather bloodless.

Mia Wasikowska turns up as Eve’s “sister” Ava. The “family” resemblance is clear: Wasikowska may be even whiter than Swinton. Ava brings an energetic abandon to Adam, Eve, and the movie, and it’s a welcome change of pace, even if it’s obvious from the start that Ava will turn out to be nothing but trouble. She takes Eve’s advice to survive and appreciate to an extreme (while not bothering with kindness and friendship ... she shares self obsession with Adam).

Swinton was born to play a vampire. Hiddleston’s Adam may remind us of Mick Jagger’s Turner in Performance, but he looks more like 1970s Jimmy Page. John Hurt is a scene-stealer as Christopher Marlowe (yes, that’s what I said). The late Anton Yelchin makes his mark, and Jeffrey Wright is always welcome.

Only Lovers Left Alive is a slow-moving tale that seems doomed, but the ending is hopeful, at least on Adam and Eve’s terms. This is the third Jim Jarmusch film I have seen (along with Down by Law and Broken Flowers), and I react to all of them on the same level. They are intriguing, but I never fall in love with them, which I imagine is by design. #247 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 7/10.


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