If you are like me, and I can assure you that you are not, then you are a tortured romantic with the emphasis on torture.
Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which spent most of its 2013 time on the festival route and opened in limited release during awards season, is finally getting a full-on nationwide limited release with Sony Classics and arrives in Indianapolis at the Landmark Keystone Arts on Friday, May 2nd.
See it. Really.
There's a reason that the film rested comfortably in The Independent Critic's Top 10 of 2013 and it's not just because I do fancy myself more than a little bit of a Jarmusch devotee. Only Lovers Left Alive may very well be Jarmusch at his very best, an exquisitely created and deeply felt motion picture that is classically romantic and touchingly funny.
If you haven't heard of the film, which wouldn't surprise me, Only Lovers Left Alive is far too easily projected outward as a uniquely Jarmusch take on a vampire flick.
Truthfully, such a description is lazy and far from accurate.
Yes, Only Lovers Left Alive has vampires and, I suppose, on some level one must admit that it is about these vampires. Yet, it is about so much more than vampires and, at its very roots, it is about love and beauty and their undeniable perpetuality.
I'm not even sure that perpetuality is a word, but it seems to fit here.
There is a hipster vibe grooving throughout Only Lovers Left Alive, a vibe that comes courtesy of vampires whose eternity is far more founded upon their ability to love and appreciate beauty than it is their certain fondness for a certain liquid nutrient. Proving that he's far more than Loki and one hell of an actor, Tom Hiddleston glows and saunters and reflects as Adam, a rather antiquated musician living in a Detroit Victorian mansion surrounded by piles of old 45's and other beloved musical treasures for which he has a passion that may feel unnatural but in a Jarmusch film is to be embraced. He is equally passionate about Eve, played so sublimely by Tilda Swinton that it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role, who spends her days in a hideaway in Tangier receiving her fixes of the necessary blood from one Christopher Marlowe, whose presence is brought to unforgettable life by John Hurt.
At his best, Jarmusch is one of the indie world's true masters at weaving together both style and substance, no small task and a task that evades even many of Hollywood's most bankable directors. Jarmusch has certainly never been considered what we might call a "bankable" filmmaker, yet he has long been respected as indie cinema's most unique and inspired voices. If you don't appreciate his rather unique sensibility, then it's doubtful that Only Lovers Left Alive will change your mind.
That would be a shame, really, because this is one damn fine film.
As someone born with spina bifida who has lived far past what anyone believed possible, I have long believed that it is love and passion that helps to keep us alive.
Unless, of course, it doesn't.
Adam and Eve and those who surround them seem to be kept alive by their love for one another, their appreciation for beauty, and their ability to find that beauty where others may not. Theirs is not a love that always requires presence, for they live far apart and for the most part rather isolated. Adam's only real visitor is a fanboy named Ian (Anton Yelchin), a young man who aids him in getting just about anything he needs except for, you know, the blood. He gets that courtesy of a crooked doctor played to perfection by Jeffrey Wright. Mia Wasikowska, who should work alongside Swinton any chance she gets, is also an absolute delight as Eve's younger sister.
The film is shot by Luca Guadagnino, who also shot the exceptionally wondrous I Am Love.
That could, perhaps, be the point of all this beauty and wonder and love and everything else that Jarmusch so magically creates on the screen.
I am love or, perhaps, when I am functioning at my highest level I am love and that is how I live. And live. And live.
Jarmusch fans will not want to miss Only Lovers Left Alive. The rest of you? You're just zombies anyway.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic