What do you do when you turn old enough to realise it’s been twenty years since high school, and you’re just as shiftless as you ever were?

Watch a grunge-chic vampire flick, of course!

Only Lovers Left Alive is a Jim Jarmusch take on vampirism in the twenty-first century that is a welcome departure from the Twilight zone. Suitable, in other words, for those of us more in touch with our mortality.

The film documents a centuries-old love affair between Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a reclusive, “suicidally romantic” musician, and Eve (Tilda Swinton), a somewhat more optimistic, but equally reclusive, literary buff.

Living in obscurity between Detroit and Tangier, Adam and Eve share a languid existence borne as much of human (“zombie”) fatigue as a shortage of uncontaminated blood supply.

It’s the way they treat the world,” complains Adam, “and now they’ve succeeded in contaminating their own blood, never mind their water”.

It’s difficult to describe what happens. There’s an unwelcome visit from Eve’s sister, the problem of dead body disposal, and the last pure drop of illegally acquired blood – “type O negativo”.

Be warned: the film is dangerously anaemic of narrative tension. I’ll even admit to nodding off somewhere in the middle…

And yet.

How do I love this film? Let me count the ways.

There are so many truly clever, ‘you just have to see it’ funny moments in this film.

It celebrates, as much as pokes fun at, a kind of self-indulgent nostalgia – the kind only people who grew up with analogue can truly grasp.

Like the couple’s video chat, facilitated by an iPhone on one end, and an elaborate 1970’s telephone-to-television hook-up on the other.

only_lovers_left_alive_ver5“How can you have lived for so long and still not get it?” asks Eve of Adam.

There are numerous in-jokes about vinyl versus YouTube and the download generation.

Creative rewriting of the origins of classics, from the likes of Shakespeare and Schubert.

A healthy disdain for family, given 87 years between visits isn’t deemed long enough by Adam (“It’s always a bit weird with family”, concedes Eve).

While it may be true to say that not much happens, all the little moments come together in poetic symphony right at the end.

As Adam and Eve contemplate their fate and the meaning of entanglement theory, they watch, enthralled by what appear to be the only (other) lovers left alive…

What I love most about this film is the evolution of the vampire mythology. Where once vampires were seen to prey on humans with abandon, there is now a recognition of their dependence on human virility.

Whether it be the artists and their fan base, or the vampires and their blood source, they are interdependent on each other.

The reminder that we’re all going down together was just what I needed to be grateful for another revolution around the sun!

What was the last film and/or birthday indulgence you truly enjoyed?


    • says

      It is an independent film – Jim Jarmusch is an American indie filmmaker, but interestingly enough, he couldn’t secure US funding for this film. So it is actually a British/German co-production. As I understand, it is having a limited release around US. Here in Melbourne, it is only screening so far in one cinema. So it may be difficult to track down, but totally worth the effort!

  1. says

    Sounds like a lot of fun….I will have it to my list! I have several “comfort movies” that I watch when I am feeling blue. Among them are two Australian films, Sirens and Strictly Ballroom, two British movies, Saving Grace and Waking Ned Divine, and two American movies, Tortilla Soup and High Fidelity. Kim

    • says

      Interesting mix of films – I have seen about half of them – Strictly Ballroom being one of those very popular Aussie movies! Films like that are like being wrapped in an old, snug blankie on a rainy day 🙂

  2. says

    That film sounds wonderful. Both Stranger than Paradise and Broken Flowers were wonderful films, so I can’t wait to see this one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    While not strictly a film or birthday-related, my latest indulgence has been the music of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Nothing else has ever quite felt so like home, somehow.
    Here’s one random link:

    • says

      For some reason, the only other Jarmusch film I’ve seen is Ghost Dog. And I don’t remember a thing about it, except an image of pigeons in a cage…

      As for Geoffrey, there’s something ethereal and incredibly moving about his music. Cuts through all the BS, somehow. That was beautiful, thank you!

  3. says

    A vampire movie with protagonists lacking in both adolescence and perfect abs does seem like a rare commodity these days. Not that I am hankering for additional vampire movies of any stripe, to be honest, but this one looks like a fresh take to the extent that is possible.

    • says

      I do know what you mean. Twilight and Vampire Diaries sort of spoiled it for me, but if it’s done well, I’m a bit of a sucker for vampires (huh! forgive the pun 🙂 ). This is a far more cynical and, if it is possible, ‘realistic’ take… 🙂

  4. says

    Your question seems like an easy one, but I’m sitting here trying to remember what I did on my birthday. Hmm. Maybe it’s because it’s been more than 20 years (getting closer to 30) since high school for me. Happy Birthday! 🙂

  5. says

    I heard about this film on NPR the other day (during my 31.1 commute!). I thought it sounded great, but couldn’t remember the name when I thought about it later. Here you are, coming to my rescue!

    I love when you review stuff. I think our tastes are aligned. Thank you!

    • says

      Funny, because I heard it while I was driving, too. And would normally forget, but I kept repeating it to myself, because I knew I had to see it! So glad to have come to your rescue! 🙂

  6. says

    Just that quote about contaminating their own blood as well as the water makes me want to see it. For some strange reason, I love dystopian films and books. It sounds like they’re trying to show how much we all need each other and a healthy world. I don’t watch movies much but the latest ones I truly enjoyed would probably have to be Avatar or Across the Universe.

    • says

      I know dystopian is supposed to be depressing, but the ‘truth’ in fiction is always more comforting to me, somehow. If you like that quote, you will like the dry humour of this film – though it has far less action than Avatar or Across the Universe! Some common themes there – I enjoyed both films, as well 🙂

  7. says

    Was it your birthday Alarna? Well, Happy Birthday! All the best!
    This movie sound quite interesting! Not sure if it’s really my type of movie but I generally like the whole vampire thing and their struggles to live their life! And, I do love that quote: “How can you have lived for so long and still not get it?”

    • says

      Gracias, Rita! There was that brief moment in the middle of the film when I asked myself why I had spent $20 going to see it. But those lines made it all worthwhile. In fact, I think I snapped to attention as I heard that one! 🙂

  8. says

    Alarna when I was much younger and had the time to watch independent films I watched a few of His films. Mystery train and also Dead Man I think with Johnny Dep. He has a certain style all of his own If I can remember. Very arty and unique. I don’t get time to watch anything so off beat these days but enjoy a good movie every so often. Hunger Games Girl on Fire….comes to mind as the last movie I enjoyed even though it is a mainstream film I adored the books.

    • says

      I know what you mean, Kath. It’s similar for me with fine literature… one needs the mental space to absorb it, and that feels hard, these days. I saw the first Hunger Games, and had mixed feelings about it. But it at least kept me awake! 🙂

  9. lynnkelleyauthor says

    Happy Birthday, Alarna! I hadn’t heard about this movie, but those quirky scenes sound like my kind of humor! I’m way overdue to go to the movies! Need to get out soon, watch a good movie, and pig out on movie popcorn, oh so unhealthy but delicious!

  10. says

    Mmm, sounds interesting. I don’t get to watch movies very often that are rated above PG, haha, so I don’t know when I’d be able to see this one. But, I like the concept. I think it’s due time for a new twist on vampires. 😉

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