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Movie Review: 'Only Lovers Left Alive' Starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton

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Only Lovers Left Alive


Only Lovers Left Alive is exactly the type of vampire movie one would expect from Jim Jarmusch. The eclectic and weird have always been his bailiwick, and he gets to indulge in both while paying reverence to the artistic misfits and outsiders he's always felt such a deep kinship. That the film is also slow moving and seemingly never-ending can be forgiven because of the director's signature cool, surrealist style and the performances by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton that are never less than intriguing.

We've never seen a vampire movie quite like this before, and that reason alone makes Only Lovers Left Alive worth the experience. Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) are centuries-long vampire lovers, separated at the beginning of the film for unknown reasons. Adam is an underground rocker of some renown, living rather ironically in the heart of Motown; Detroit the birthplace of soul music occupied by the literally soulless. The eons of existence have worn Adam down to the point of depression; so much that not even his vintage guitars can pull him out of it. Meanwhile, Eve is in Tangier hanging out with her old friend Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt, and yes it's the Marlowe you think it is) who can get his hands on the purest blood in the world. Sensing her mate's despair, Eve hurries to his side under the cover of night in hopes of pulling him out of the vampire dumps.

Droll yet visually intoxicating, the film is merely a chance for Jarmusch to luxuriate in everything from classic rock, to art, and architecture. Adam harps on the presence of zombies (a derogatory term for humans) who have no respect for the past, while Eve indulges in her return to America. One scene has them visiting the home of musician Jack White, with Adam telling a tale of the rocker's ascendence to greatness. Truthfully, there isn't much of a story here at all other than Jarmusch's usual musings. That is until Mia Wasikowska turns up as Eve's frollicking, meddlesome sister Ava, who turns their world upside down. She's not around long, but she gives the story a much needed injection of danger and mischief. All of the high-minded references and name-drops will strike some as pretentious, but to those who are up on what Jarmusch is laying down, they'll be worth a knowing chuckle or two.

Jarmusch may take his sweet time getting around to it, but ultimately Only Lovers Left Alive is about the strain of eternal love and the value of our shared artistic history. It may not be for everyone, but this is a vampire film that at least has some blood coursing through its veins.