April 16th 2014 04:03
A resounding return to form after the soulless, clinical miscalculation of The Limits of Control (2009), Jim Jarmusch’s new film effortlessly puts a charge into a wearied, overexposed lifeform – the vampire. Set mostly in the backstreets of Detroit, Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) initially separates the two central lovers: musician Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is lying low in Detroit, contemplating suicide as he hides out from groupies. Rare joy comes from visits from his human friend Ian (Anton Yelchin) who procures vintage guitars for him. Meanwhile, Eve (Tilda Swinton), is doing likewise in exotic Tangier, her source of sustenance being the waning Marlowe (John Hurt). But times are tough for those requiring high quality blood to survive and so Eve treks back to the States to reunite with her immortal beloved.
Though thin in terms of plot, it’s the rich texture of Jarmusch’s film that helps maintain a hypnotic hold. It's drenched in lazy, random rock riffs, swirling, depleted colours and plenty of dreamy visual asides that illuminate the slowly passing lives of these timeless lovers with an eroded poetic grandeur. It goes without saying that the performances are exceptional. Swinton has long possessed an otherworldliness, a fact used to great effect by Jarmusch. And yet the very notion of her ‘alienness’ is turned on its head by Eve’s ‘humanity’, her decency, exquisite taste and capacity to love. There’s a gentle, sustaining poignancy at the heart of the film that’s only enhanced by the most seemingly mundane scenes of the pair cruising the streets at night or reliving centuries old memories with wry observations. Hiddleston, in a less sympathetic role, is equally good as Eve’s man, whilst Mia Wasikowska steals a chunk midway through as Eve’s carefree, troublesome younger sister Ava.
From the perspective of these centuries’ old beings, the humans are the zombies, the wastrels sucking the blood out of one another in mindless pursuit of their own meaningless holy grails. Jarmusch has wicked fun at our expense in sculpting the parameters of this dark void as well as slyly jabbing away at literary and art history with tongue planted firmly in cheek. This ever ironic, idiosyncratic director, thankfully, is back, in a rich vein of form, and even if it doesn’t quite match his finest work, Only Lovers Left Alive is bloody delicious all the same.
Only Lovers Left Alive opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, April 17, 2014.