Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
December 16, 2014 6:43 AM - Subscribe

Jim Jarmusch's beautiful, moody, and lingering tale of a vampire couple (portrayed by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) in what seems to be a faintly apocalyptic world of today.

I personally loved it, but then I've been a Jarmusch fan most of my life (my all time favorite movie is Mystery Train). I finally just saw this on Sunday and I cannot stop thinking about it. There is so much detail and throwaway mythology that I wish I knew more about the characters, their own vampiric physiology, everything.

Currently streaming on Canadian Netflix.


posted by Kitteh (16 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I saw this at a midnight showing in Vancouver, and as I had just flown in that day from the Eastern time zone, it was even later on my body clock. Let me tell you all: if you are going to watch an atmospheric, elliptical vampire hangout film, the 3:00 to 5:00 AM slot is perfect for this.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:54 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, one of the most compelling ever trivia entries on IMDB: "There was some action in the film at first. But when Jarmusch was asked to add more he instead removed all of it."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:58 AM on December 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

Beautiful movie, heavy in atmosphere, but frustratingly lacking in plot. You have two seriously compelling actors and they really don't do much. Then again I'd happily watch shirtless Tom Hiddleston play the violin for 3 hours.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:15 AM on December 16, 2014

"There was some action in the film at first. But when Jarmusch was asked to add more he instead removed all of it."


The ending managed to make me feel incredibly cheated.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 10:42 AM on December 16, 2014

Jarmusch doesn't go big on plot in his films generally, but I love that.

To me, the movie completely succeeds as a gorgeous elegiac antidote to what people expect/want from a vampire movie. It portrays immortality as it probably is: dreadfully boring and repetitive. Adam, despite his love for Eve, just barely engages with the world anymore. Via music and Ian, he just manages to keep himself interested in a world that sounds as though it is fraying into toxic sludge (hence that the vampires in question rely on blood bank drinking and not hunting). Eve, in her fortress of books, believes she is still very much part of the world, despite her own apparent seclusion and the occasional meeting with Kit.

Their love has proven itself eternal, but the world has no need of them anymore. Drinking/hunting like in the old days results in incredibly high chances of being poisoned by the shit that is in modern human blood, so the ending is either starvation or a different death by what might be lurking in the young couple's blood.
posted by Kitteh at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

It is pretty typical Jarmusch: Long on atmosphere, short on plotting, slowly (and sometimes monotonously) paced. It's not my favorite of his films, but is full of all sorts of fun little details, including a terrific sense of place, with Detroit standing in for decaying Eastern Europe, and seeming more impoverished and forgotten than any cinematic representation of Transylvania. Vampires have been our stand-ins for hipsters for a while, and it was interesting to see Jarmusch, who is a filmmaker who can credibly claim an authentically hip sensibility, take a stab at it. Unfortunately, the territory is so well-worn, and his own aesthetic is so well-trod, that it didn't feel to me like he was finding much new in the material.
posted by maxsparber at 1:19 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

How odd, I think it had the right amount of plot i.e. the atmosphere and mood was more the point. On that latter point it succeeded wonderfully.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wanted to like this movie, it seemed like a great idea: a Jarmusch movie about the most world-weary people possible. I think my hopes were a little high.

I think the fact that [John Hurt's character Kit turns out to be THE Kit Marlowe] is kind of emblematic of what I didn't like about this movie. I kept wanting it to do things and go places... but each new turn was a little too familiar.
posted by fleacircus at 8:38 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

My review from earlier in the year: Perfect for what it is. It doesn't move fast, I suppose some might even think it's a touch pretentious. Having seen so much of the bloodsucker genre, It's rather like seeing a gymnast nail their routine and get a perfect score, if gymnastics were a vampire film.
posted by Catblack at 9:00 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm glad you put this post up. I love this film. It was cast perfectly. I could watch Tilda Swinton do anything and find it fascinating. My only gripe is when they reference Jack White. I'm not sure what I was supposed to get out of that, but it seemed cheesy. Normally, Jarmusch's pacing tends to leave me impatient (I loved the imagery in Limits of Control and hated the film) but I thought this one was paced nicely.

And the soundtrack, oh man. It's been burning a hole in my brain since I watched this back in October. I ordered it from amazon immediately. For whatever reason it didn't show up until last week. I recommend it. In the meantime, I had purchased a collaborative record made by Jarmusch and Jozef van Wissem (the lutist who wrote most of the soundtrack) called The Mystery of Heaven. It's is a fantastic record and features Tilda Swinton performing a monologue atop post-modern lute and guitar.

description from the record company that released that record:

"Jim Jarmusch and Jozef Van Wissem met on the streets of New York in 2006. They shared a lot of interest and background so a collaboration and a friendship was born. Jarmusch was looking to have Van Wissem compose a score for a film he had been trying to make for years, what he described as a “crypto-vampire film” about two lovers, outsider types who have been in love for hundreds of years. Van Wissem’s work comes from a tradition of avant-garde minimalism and lends itself well to the director’s stark cinematic works. Jarmusch has played guitar in bands on and off since the late ‘70s. Van Wissem’s compositional style involves hypnotic circular musical phrases that allow for a lot of contemplative space between the notes."
posted by GrapeApiary at 12:00 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love this movie. Such a beautiful and atmospheric piece, but I wouldn't recommend it as a first foray into Jarmusch territory for those who are unfamiliar with his work. Ranking it, I'd place it above Stranger than Paradise, Coffee and Cigarettes and Broken Flowers but below Night on Earth, Dead Man, Mystery Train and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai in terms of pure entertainment.

If you're a hardcore Jarmusch fan, this film is like a fine snifter of brandy: it hits all the sweet spots you'd expect from his writing/cinematography/humor/soundtrack/direction choices, and blends the claustrophobic closeness of vampire life with a sprawling worldview across two continents and centuries of implied boredom from going through the rituals of everyday faux-human existence.

This makes it the perfect insomnia movie, IMO.

Hiddleston and Swinton are so ethereally beautiful and such good actors that I would happily watch them fill out paperwork for two hours; the whole cast and the chemistry they share onscreen with one another is excellent.

I guess I'd compare Only Lovers Left Alive to the film adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando (which also starred the radiant Tilda Swinton, whom I may say is even lovelier and more striking in person).
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:50 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hmm, great points Kitteh. I may have to re-watch with your comment in mind.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:01 PM on December 17, 2014

This movie also mostly convinced me that Tilda Swinton is definitely not of this earth.
posted by Kitteh at 6:19 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I could watch Tilda Swinton do anything and find it fascinating.

Ditto, a thousand times over.

Tilda Swinton is definitely not of this earth.

She is obviously from the same planet as David Bowie.
posted by palomar at 7:54 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

The soundtrack. Just watch it for the soundtrack.
posted by gaspode at 8:20 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Finally got around to seeing this and very pleased and want more. I want the full backstory. I want the coloring book and the spinoff tv series with weekly episodes of Tilda and Tom's continuing adventures, a new city every week.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:46 PM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

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