A strong current of Jarmusch’s humor runs through this film, which saves it from clichés of gothic fantasies and narratives (not that he has ever written anything clichéd). Films with vampires (Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction excepted) frequently fall into that danger given that you can only do so much with the constraints of the narrative (night, blood, stake through the heart, bad eyeliner). But the director’s wit and humor give Only Lovers Left Alive a levity which I enjoyed. Adam and Eve, the vampire lovers left alive, are a funny case of Hepburn-Tracey opposites attract: Eve is fun-loving, makes blood popsicles for the summer heat, and hangs out with the fun literary vampire Kit Marlowe. Adam is in the throes of an existential crisis of Hamlet-like proportions. In addition, her disruptive sister is a flaky Angeleno with an overindulgence problem, and his blood supplier (the hilarious and inimitable Jeffrey Wright) enjoys a good and witty literary reference. There is plenty of gothic feeling to be enjoyed by vampire film purists, particularly the scenes shot in Detroit, a stand-in for a dystopian and otherwordly present. However, the sharp writing and the actors’ comic talents (particularly Tilda Swinton), not to mention the frequent and funny jokes about Shakespeare, Marlowe, writers, and musicians, make the narrative wonderfully real, substantial, earthy, and even possible.
Only Lovers Left Alive, dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2013. 123 min. Recorded Picture Company (RPC), Pandora Filmproduktion, Snow Wolf Produktion, et al.
Opens April 11 in New York and Los Angeles.