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Tyler

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

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So, Jim Jarmusch is making a movie about vampire lovers* named Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Other cast members include John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, and Mia Wasikowska.

*vampires who are lovers, not people who love vampires

Not much info beyond that, but still.

A couple of interviews:




It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'm not quite sure why, because it doesn't seem to really have been released anywhere yet, but reviews have been steadily appearing for this one over the last few weeks.
 
Ed Whitfield:
The alliance between Vampirism and young adults has, of late, threatened to sully the predators’ good name. Who better then, than indie oddball Jim Jarmusch to reclaim the blood suckers for adults? In the sumptuously meditative, oft cerebral and mordantly funny Only Lovers Left Alive, he reworks the tropes of gothic horror with splendid quirk. It’s romantic, sardonic and literary and like many of the best movies, very little happens. No wars, no prophesies and no hormones, just romance divested of sentiment or cliché. That’s right, this is the movie we often wish we’d seen in place of the gruel served up for our tired eyes ... This is a story that’s dared to think about the consequences of longevity and what such a long life span would mean to romantics like Hiddleston, who’s had perhaps too much time to contemplate his lot and his status as an interloper in a human society he doesn’t much care for. Swinton’s elegant and wise companion is therefore the perfect corrective. There’s still a glint in her eye. Watching these two tired brains mix historical anecdote and philosophy with a drive by of Jack White’s house and a visit to a gig in a Detroit bar, is one of the year’s great pleasures ... Trust Jarmusch to eschew cliché and think about the vampire condition – their lives, their loves, the advantages of accumulating vast repositories of knowledge and the disadvantages inherent in being a hidden species that can’t apply it as their human neighbours do ...

Geoffrey Macnab:
Jim Jarmusch's wonderfully arch and stylish 21st-century vampire movie owes as much to 1980s indie music and film culture as it does to Bram Stoker. The irony, which the film seems very aware of, is that film-makers from that era, such as Jarmusch himself, are as much out of time as the vampire protagonists here. (You can't help noticing that the pale-skinned vampire lovers played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton dress remarkably similarly to the characters in Jarmusch's 1980s films, who invariably also preferred night-time to the daylight.) The film has a grungy, pre-digital aesthetic. In the world shown here, Gibson guitars and 45rpms matter much more than any new technology.
 

David Jenkins:

Great art never dies and nor do vampires. Both, however, require special tending to make their passage through time a safe and prosperous one.  Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch is a sublime celebration of art and artists which zeroes in on the concept of culture as a human necessity — indeed, its life-giving properties are deemed so vital that, alongside food and water, it is the only thing preventing us from pressing a .45 to our collective temple and bidding good night, Chicago. Yet this delightful conjecture proposes a melancholy paradox, that there is in fact a innate reciprocal relationship between culture and humanity. Humans create art, then art consoles humans. The problems remains that art is finite and humans aren’t, so what happens when there’s no-one left standing to appreciate the sublime masterworks forged by those great poets of antiquity?

 

The register of this film is predominantly funny and flip, and if Swinton and Hiddleston were not actors previously known for their comic chops, they will be now. Hiddleston delivers every line laced with a perfectly mixed cocktail of spite and exasperation, betraying a sense of extreme self-consciousness and expansive worldly experience. His barely-disguised malice, huffy sense of entitlement and potential psychosis recall Holden Caulfield, only this time the “phonies” are now the “zombies”. Yet his agitation is born of a deep sadness: who will enjoy all this incredible art when everyone’s dead? ... One sequence sees Adam rebooting his secret underfloor generator during a power outage, revealing a self-sustaining contraption based on the theories of 19th-century electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. While “the fucking zombies” persist with their community energy grid and the meshes of tangled cables that litter the landscape, Adam has personally preserved the ideas of a man who was, in his day, dismissed as a crackpot. In the same way, there are those who may cast aside Only Lovers Left Alive as an eccentric trifle created by a wanton iconoclast, just as they did Dead Man, just as they did The Limits of Control. But like Tesla, it only takes memory, creativity and little perspective to prove the world wrong ...

 

Virginie Sélavy:

... As always with Jim Jarmusch, music is crucial to the film, not just as sonic accompaniment to the images, but also as an integral part of the story, starting with a main character who is a musician and lives in a house full of vinyl and vintage guitars (almost all of the records actually belong to Jarmusch). The score was written by Jozef Van Wissem, avant-garde composer, lutenist and guitarist, with contributions by SQÜRL, a trio featuring Jarmusch, Carter Logan and Shane Stoneback. Van Wissem’s music is beautifully sparse and evocative, punctuating the story with nonchalant, unhurried, fuzzy guitars that moodily drift in and out, just like the characters. In addition to the score, there are a number of original songs that are heard at key moments in the film. The opening track is a woozy, slowed-down, even ghostlier remix of Wanda Jackson’s spine-tingling ‘Funnel of Love’, which flows over a hypnotic pan of the various characters in different locations, all tripping out after drinking blood. Later we’ll also hear the louche guitar riff of Charlie Feathers’s terrific ‘Can’t Hardly Stand It’ and Denise LaSalle’s laidback and soulful ballad ‘Trapped by a Thing Called Love’. But it’s not all classic soul and rock’n’roll, and Jarmusch’s enduring love for the 50s and 60s is complemented by new music from the likes of American psychedelic rock band White Hills, and Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan in an atmospheric, Moroccan-set café scene.

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Nothing profound to add, only that my daughter is completely smitten with Tom Hiddleston, so I expect we'll be seeing this (though, of course we'll need to sit in separate parts of the theater, so my presence doesn't mortify her).  On the plus side, this looks much more interesting than Thor 2.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Some quick thoughts form SXSW:
 

That twist is clever, and clever twists are hard to come by in the vampire genre. Even so, most people (myself included) don't like being told they are a member of a worthless species. I might have adored a film like this that played up its ironies by having the vampires work, like exasperated parents or harrowed heath officials, to get humans to take care of themselves. Instead, Adam and Eve come across as the idle, listless, rich...

 

 

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I love this film. I especially love Tilda Swinton here — this is easily my favorite performance of hers. She seems to be doing an Annie Clark (St. Vincent) impression. She has that same alien quality that Swinton usually brings to a role, but there's a softness and a joy as well that makes her company far more enjoyable. And Hiddlestone is just perfect.

 

It's basically a Jarmusch take on Wings of Desire: drifting immortals watching humanity, and loving a decaying city (Detroit, this time), but with a measure of contempt and a Cassiel kind of melancholy, meandering through night life and sticking around for great shows (this time it's White Hills and Yasmine Hamdan (wow!). 


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Guess who.
 

Ultimately, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is a failure because it stresses character, atmosphere, and ideas over story and plot,

Is there anything wrong with that??

 

On a related note, there were four people at my screening who clearly expected this to be a conventional vampire/horror film and left about 45 minutes in, bitterly disappointed.

 

 

And FWIW, I think this might be my favorite film I've seen all year.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Great review of a great film, Jeremy.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Fantastic review, Jeremy


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Thanks guys.

Jeffrey, so I intentionally did not read this until after I wrote my own review. But now it's nice to see that I wasn't the only one to notice what I thought were some of the film's main themes about living a consumerist culture devoted to gratification of the appetite. I didn't make the Wim Wenders connection, though. That's a nice comparison - both films are about beings who have lived and watched everyone else across time and how this would shape the ways in which they would view our society. I also wholeheartedly agree that if Jarmusch were ever to make a sequel, Adam and Eve are the two characters he should do it with.

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That's a mighty thorough review, Jeremy. That article you quoted helped me appreciate the rationale behind the incessant name dropping in this film. Isn't it true that whenever we make a reference to a work we admire, we secretly hope that others will take our recommendation seriously? I mean, I've been trying to get people to read Walter de la Mare for years!

 

If the film has a fundamental flaw, it's that Jarmusch expects us to adopt Adam and Eve's point of view without questioning it. By setting up an uncomplicated vampire/zombie dichotomy and siding completely with the vampires, the film perpetuates a kind of hipster complacency. Snobs will emerge feeling good about being snobbish, while plebes will feel angry and out of the loop. In between those two poles there will be a few that will indeed discover William Blake. And perhaps this film is really for them.

 

But Adam and Eve are not above reproach. Sure, they'd be cool to hang out with, to have a drink with, to chat music with, but they are, in the final tally, goddamned bloodsuckers. In this regard, Jarmusch, without really intending to, raises an interesting question. Will several lifetimes' worth of reading "the best" actually make you a better person? Much as I'd like to think that the experience of reading Don Quixote is automatically ennobling, I know from personal experience that it is not. Adam (and to a lesser extent, Eve) remain trapped in their own cycles of depression despite having helped invent Romanticism. Perhaps Byron and Shelley and the ideals they represent are actually toxic to human happiness? This is where a bit of autocritique is necessary, I think. And this is where Only Lovers Left Alive is largely silent.

Edited by Nathaniel

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

Twitter     Letterboxd

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Adam (and to a lesser extent, Eve) remain trapped in their own cycles of depression despite having helped invent Romanticism. Perhaps Byron and Shelley and the ideals they represent are actually toxic to human happiness? This is where a bit of autocritique is necessary, I think. And this is where Only Lovers Left Alive is largely silent.

Romanticism, as C.S. Lewis points out in his Afterword to The Pilgrim’s Regress, is a term that is now used to mean quite a few different things. As far as the Romantic Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries is concerned, it is difficult even there to distinguish the philosophic movement from the literary one. While I am constitutionally against the main philosophic characteristics of the movement (treating man as basically & naturally good, overvaluing "nature," contempt for institutions, traditions, customs, conventions or restraints, overemphasis on the heart rather than the head, unhealthy fascination with the sensational, the lurid or even the perverted, an egoism that would indulge in depression and suffering both for their own sake, the forsaking of any kind of relational or familial responsibility, the dishonorable treatment of women), I still think there are characteristics of the movement to value. The Romantics were quite eloquent at resisting extreme industrialization and utilitarianism.

Blake, Byron and Shelley all wrote some beautiful poetry that can be valued for its own sake. But appreciating their poetry doesn’t mean you can’t distinguish it from the extremes of their Romantic philosophy. Keats and Wordsworth aren’t quite as extreme. Scott, Coleridge and Goethe end up much more mature and conservative. The very worst of the Romanticists was Rousseau. In fact, I am close to abhorring almost every single one of Rousseau’s inclinations and teachings. Only Lovers Left Alive is not entirely silent on this point. I briefly mentioned in the review how when Marlowe/Shakespeare tells Eve to give his regards “to that suicidal romantic scoundrel,” she answers: “Well let’s hope he’s just romantic. Even so I mainly blame Shelley and Byron and some of those French assholes who used to hang around him.” In fact, Eve is a counterpoint against Adam’s worse Romantic tendencies. She’s always correcting him and pointing out how self-centered his depression can sometimes be.  She is a check against the egoism that Adam is tempted towards, and Adam has been around long enough to also be invested in a lot more than just Romanticism.

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I'm glad we agree on the destructive characteristics of the Romantic ideology! But you're right, it's simply ignorant to claim that they didn't write beautiful verse, or that they should be lumped together into one inseparable group. They should be taken individually. Take Blake, for instance. In his day, while Newton was using science to reach physical heights, Blake was using poetry to reach spiritual heights. He wanted all of us to be united in imagination. He loved Jesus very much, but if Jesus hadn't been available, he would have gladly taken the devil. For many, Blake is the perfect alternative to Christianity. In fact, if I were not a Christian, I might be a Blakean. 

 

In his poem, "The Nightingale," Coleridge addresses a danger that Blake fell into. We should not try to conform nature to our own needs, but rather try to see it as it was created: perpetually good. In the poem, "Frost at Midnight," the question arises of how we ought to look at nature. Should we see the tree, or see God in connection with the tree? We need to see, in addition to feeling, how beautiful something is. This is where many of the Romanticists fail.

 

But gosh, Keats--who doesn't love Keats? My wife doesn't care for poetry but she adores Keats. (Some credit is due to Jane Campion and Ben Whishaw for that one!)

 

You're right that in the film Eve is a corrective to Adam's Romantic tendencies, but she has her own problems. She puts Infinite Jest on the same level as Cervantes, for one. Okay, I haven't read Infinite Jest. I just know a lot of people who love it. And they are not my people.wink.png

Edited by Nathaniel

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

Twitter     Letterboxd

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In his poem, "The Nightingale," Coleridge addresses a danger that Blake fell into. We should not try to conform nature to our own needs, but rather try to see it as it was created: perpetually good. In the poem, "Frost at Midnight," the question arises of how we ought to look at nature. Should we see the tree, or see God in connection with the tree? We need to see, in addition to feeling, how beautiful something is. This is where many of the Romanticists fail.

Coleridge's ideas on how we ought to see nature are quite sophisticated, actually. You are right that he argued against projecting our feelings onto nature and that often times when we describe the world, we are essentially describing not the world but our feelings about it. In fact, Coleridge's famous distinction between fancy and imagination is linked to this, because while he argues that other Romantics mistake their feelings about the world for the world, he also further argues that (1) this mistake does not make it impossible to accurately see reality, and (2) the reality that we experience is not entirely independent of us. In other words, Coleridge does suggest that the way in which we perceive it does in fact have a part in shaping it. His whole body of thought treads a fascinating fine line between Romantic idealism, on the one hand, and a relative nominalism on the other.

I have not really thought about how these ideas would interact with depression. It would be interesting. But Adam's depression seems less to be motivated by any sort of Romanticism and more motivated out of cynicism and despair at what has happened to the world. He seems to take it to an extreme, but then there are some facts and events during the film that also seem to justify some of his worries. Eve tempers what Adam would otherwise turn extreme, but then Adam seems to notice more than Eve does. She is less reflective without him, which is why I like how they compliment each other.

You're right that in the film Eve is a corrective to Adam's Romantic tendencies, but she has her own problems. She puts Infinite Jest on the same level as Cervantes, for one. Okay, I haven't read Infinite Jest. I just know a lot of people who love it. And they are not my people.

Read Wallace before you make any judgments. He makes some pretty damning critiques of consumerist and postmodernist assumptions that would fall right in line with what Jarmusch is doing with this film.

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