SXSW 2014 Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive – Jim Jarmusch


only-lovers-left-aliveThis movie is so good… so beautiful… that I almost don’t want to sully it with my completely insufficient words. But that is what I am here to do after all. And if I can get just one person to see this movie, that might not have otherwise, it will be worth it. From the opening, the film seems to want to hypnotize its viewers. The spinning vinyl top-down shot careens and morphs into slowly spinning overheads of our two main characters, the lovers Adam & Eve, separated by continents but intrinsically linked to one another in eternity. Slowly Jarmusch exposes their world to us. Bit by bit we see what they do, how they live, and a question starts forming. We know they are vampires, but what are they doing and why? The question remains for the entirety of the first act. And I will not tell you the answer, because the slow realization is so much a part of the experience of watching this film. Who are these people that have lived so long? How have they come to be and exist in the modern age? Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a reclusive musician in Detroit. The only person he ever seems to have contact with is a Detroit rock n’ roll kid, played by Anton Yelchin, who procures him things… guitars mostly, but some other specialty items as needed. One day he procures Adam a wooden bullet in a brass casing. Eve (the sublime Tilda Swinton) has been living in Tangier for an age, it would seem. Her friend and blood connection is the one and only Christopher Marlow  (John Hurt – because who else could an immortal Kit Marlow be, I ask you?). Their constant struggle, and presumably the constant struggle of all living vampires, is where to find clean blood in the modern age. Their existence has become one of survival. The pleasures and beauty of the material world, after living so long in it, seem to have lost any magic and meaning. After a most bizarre video phone call between the two estranged lovers, Eve decides to make the trek across the globe to see to her lover. Shortly after their reunion Eve’s younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), with her complete lack of self control and perspective, invades their sacred space and (once again, apparently) wreaks havoc on their lives. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible soundtrack, equally as enthralling as the performances themselves, composed and performed by Jarmusch’s own band SQURL and Jozek Van Wissem (take a listen on SOUNDCLOUD). And then there is the visual poetry that is the cinematography, which if you are a fan of Jim Jarmusch already, probably doesn’t even need to be mentioned at all. I don’t think there is a single frame of this film that couldn’t be considered stunning in its composition, color, structure and content. Observe:

Jim Jarmusch

In much the same way as vampire films like The Hunger and Let The Right One In seem to lead you down a meandering path of mysteries and answers, Only Lovers Left Alive is a slow, dreamy bohemian love story that spans millennia while taking place over the course of only a few days. How Jarmusch is able to accomplish this is yet another mystery, and further evidence of his mastery of story telling and filmmaking. The trailer, almost as beautiful as the film itself, is below. Try not to get too drunk on it’s exquisiteness…

The sublime and fashionable Tilda Swinton at SXSW 2014 premier of Only Lovers Left Alive – Photo by Nerdlocker’s own Chris Torres

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I grew up on Kung Fu theater movie weekends, a lot of Top Ramen Noodles, G.I. Joe's, Evil Knivels Stunt Cycle and Stretch Armstrong. My Movie reviews and Artist Interviews have been a regular around Follow me on Twitter @arainbolt. or email me