Only Lovers Left Alive
As the opening sequence demonstrates, to the accompaniment of a needle dropping on a scratchy (and of course deliciously rare) soul 45, their existence is zonked-out placid, she in unmatched boho-chic in Tangiers, he in a shadowy, crumbling, dark-wood mansion in an abandoned part of Detroit, recording his music amidst towers of vintage audio gear. Eve is several thousand years old, Adam more like 500, but by this time both are above the old-fashioned traditions of beastly behaviour, instead sourcing uncontaminated blood from doctors and labs, and in the case of Adam, shunning almost all contact with the human world ("fucking zombies" he likes to spit).
Although living half a world apart at the start - proportionate to their hundreds of years together, something like a weekend break - Eve travels to Adam to console his world-weariness. They may both be vampires, strongly and believably in love, but they deliberately positioned as yin and yang. To help us get the idea, she dresses most frequently in white, he almost exclusively in black. She upbraids him gently for his self-obsession, as a waste of time which could be spent living, enjoying the world, nature, dancing. He, on the other hand, is like "Hamlet played by Syd Barrett" (Jarmusch's first direction to Hiddlestone). It is hardly the latter's fault, therefore, if his character feels both like a box-checking archetype of hipsterism, and a little second-hand (right down to his photo wall of heroes, from Poe and Kafka, to Buster Keaton and Joe Strummer, to the slightly dubious - pace Jarmusch's filmography - inclusion of Neil Young).
Adam denies his heroes: the insecure egotism of the artist. Eve never would, for she is ready to appreciate all. Thus when he drives her past Jack White's childhood home, her happy reaction is one of affection rather than the reverence of Adam's photo wall. Her outlook is largely one of wonder; his one of cynicism, and disgust at those who lack his refined taste (and at those who thwarted his scientific heroes from Gallileo to Tesla).
There is of course a third approach to these relationships with culture and beauty, and that's not to give two hoots. This is embodied by Eve's sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who turns up halfway through to cause a bit of chaos. She is much younger, and wilder, and hails from LA ("zombie central", as Adam describes it). Wasikowska is delightfully willful and bratty (although like Adam, to quite a degree predictable - why on earth would the elder couple leave her alone with an obvious victim they'd prefer to keep around?) and departs calling Adam and Eve a pair of "condescending snobs".
The most egregious example of this is the character of Marlowe who as a cultural figure, beyond just being a dear friend of Eve's, adds nothing to the film except a chance for Jarmusch to state bluntly his anti-Stratfordian views, with no need for supporting argument, and the lightly touched-upon issue of getting one's work out there without the need for personal recognition. This more or less represents the film's superficial hipness to a tee, references as badges of cool, of rebelliousness, of knowledge, without emotional import, significance, or even appreciation as endless nods are made. By this time, one expects little profundity from Jarmusch, particularly after the damp squibs of his last two pictures (Broken Flowers and Limits of Control). Beyond the hang-out cool atmosphere of his movies, their saving grace is usually the deadpan humour, on display in only fits and starts here: following a startlingly swift acid bath Eve blinks out "Well that certainly was visual".
This is a decent summation of the film. It looks fantastic, from her yak-hair wig to his glorious lute, and the vampire's leather gloves that the film-makers include to invent their own bit of vampire mythology (unexplained, but basically as some form of protection when they are outside their home turf). One cannot fault its cool, and it looks and sounds terrific. DP Yorick Le Saux (veteran of several Ozon films) shoots a lovely shadowy night-time world; production and costume designers Marco Bittner Rosser (V for Vendetta, Hellboy, Inglorious Bastards) and Bina Daigelier (Che, The Limits of Control) have really gone to town, from the (slightly too-precious) goblets from which the vampires drink their blood, to Hurt's (500-year-old!) waistcoat; and Jarmusch's band SQÜRL with lutist Jozef Van Wissen provide the perfect, narcotic score, drenched in feedback.
d/sc Jim Jarmusch p Jeremy Thomas, Reinhard Brundig ph Yorick Le Saux ed Affonso Gonçalves pd Marco Bittner Rosser m Jozaef van Wissem cast Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright, Slimane Dazi
(2013, UK/Ger/Fr/Cyp/USA, 113m)