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DVD review: 'Only Lovers Left Alive' (2014)

'Only Lovers Left Alive'


Celebrated filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has had a successful, if nearly exclusively cult-hit-yielding career

'Only Lovers Left Alive'
'Only Lovers Left Alive'

His last work, 'The Limits of Control' was a deliberately insular production that didn't seem to make many waves, even among his devotees.

The followup is a vampire tale called 'Only Lovers Left Alive.'

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a vampire who has existed for centuries, surrounding himself with musicians and various creative-types all around the world. Regardless of his past, he finds himself hidden away in an abandoned building in Detroit, anonymously and (of course) nocturnally. His instruments and recording equipment keep him company as does the occasional visit from his human friend/contact with the outside world, Ian (Anton Yelchin). He makes trips to the local hospital and buys donated blood for sustenance.

On the other side of the world in Tangier, Adam's wife, Eve (Tilda Swinton) is living an equally subdued life, yet she has more social interaction. Her closest friend/supplier of blood is Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt). After a video chat where Eve fears that Adam's thoughts of suicide have returned, she flies to Detroit to be with him.

Once reunited, things seem to be going well for the happy couple. Of course, something has to come along and challenge the status quo.

One of the major themes of the film seems to be how much of a drag eternal life can be. The characters (especially Adam) are supremely bored, as he is even on the verge of contemplating suicide. On the surface, it might seem fun to have all the time in the world to be able to practice a craft (music in this case) and to become an expert. It comes at the cost of not having any friends, avoiding the light, hiding away and needing a constant supply of blood. The bond between Adam and Eve seems to be the only thing worth going on for and, as we discover, they seem to complete each other.

That all changes when Ava (Mia Wasikowska) enters the picture. Her character is supremely annoying, but she really shakes up the narrative just when it begins to scream for something to break up the ennui that the characters and audience feels. She injects elements of humor and, most importantly, a sense of urgency. It's a good thing she arrives when she does, if the film had taken any longer to kick into gear, the film may have been irretrievably lost.

The Detroit setting may also have been a very conscious choice to symbolize a place that was once lively, but has since been ravaged by time. It is very isolated and dead. Strangely enough, the only people we see on the streets at night are a few bored teenagers and some typical concert-goers at a club. That seems like a bit of a sanitized version of the city. Tangier seems to be the smaller, more claustrophobic of the locations, but it is more vibrant.

Jarmusch has often preferred to let his stories be driven by dialog and limited space. Sometimes he does so to wild success ('Down By Law' and 'Night On Earth', other times it is a chore, ('Coffee and Cigarettes'). This falls somewhere in between.

Everyone plays their parts nicely. Swinton and Hiddleston are detached (more so the latter in this regard), Wasikowska is an entitled freeloader and John Hurt lends some nobility as a previously-thought dead figure from history.

Special features include: a 45 minute behind the scenes featurette, a music video, deleted and extended scenes.

'Only Lovers Left Alive' is certainly recognizable as a Jarmusch film, though it tackles a different subject matter and has a little more visual flair than many of his other stories.

You have to stick with it, but with patience, it eventually reveals itself to be one of Jarmusch's more satisfying recent efforts.

Add an extra half star to this review.

Rated R 123 minutes 2014

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