Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is the New York director’s best film in a long time. When he’s good, he’s very very good, but some of his work can feel indulgent and thin (see “Limits of Control”). But this super-cool vampire romance hits on all cylinders. (It’s at 73 on Metacritic.)
“Only Lovers Left Alive” stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as exquisitely cool ancient vampires still in love after centuries–perhaps because they live on different continents. He morosely cruises the ghostly streets of a ruined, deserted Detroit (an inspired location), creates lush electronic music and collects vintage instruments provided by his discreet local dealer (Anton Yelchin). She roams the narrow lanes of Tangier to meet her beloved quality blood supplier (John Hurt). She finally pays her lover a visit in Detroit, where they are joined for a time by her mischievous sister (Mia Wasikowska). In this must-see romance, Jarmusch combines many of the things he adores (actors, music, books, visuals) in one deliciously entertaining film.
The movie played well at Cannes in May 2013 and went on to play the global festival circuit, from Toronto and New York to SXSW, where Swinton gave a talk, but is at long last opening April 11 via Sony Pictures Classics. (See the Cannes press conference video and trailer below.)
Ohio-born Jarmusch pushed “Only Lovers Left Alive” up the hill for seven years (at one point Michael Fassbender was attached) and both Swinton and John Hurt stuck with the project, which was finally funded in the U.K., France, Cyprus and Germany at $7 million. “It took a very, very long time,” Jarmusch said, “and it’s getting more and more difficult for films that are maybe a little unusual or maybe not predictable or not satisfying people’s expectations of something — which is the beauty of cinema: discovering new things of all forms.”
Swinton tried to unravel the allure of vampires: “I suppose because they live these long, long, potentially never-ending lives, and we’re all so terrified of thinking of mortality that we’d rather think about being immortal. I think the idea of invisibility and yet existing visibly is really beautiful and it was always coming. I was never surprised when Jim said to me, ‘Let’s make a vampire film.’ I felt like saying ‘You’ve been making vampire films for years,’ it feels like a very natural state, that invisible, immortal world.”
The always articulate Hiddleston (who tweets beautifully) was attracted to “the idea of a character who embodied a romanticism and melancholy, but still motivated by a curiosity towards the things that he loved. And I feel like he is fascinated by two separate things which are entwined: music and science. He’s enamored by vibrating particles: they might be stringed instruments and they might be stars. And he’s so passionate about these things, and he’s such a brilliant musician and engineer, but in a way he can’t see that. And she is broader and she can hold his fragility. And it was just a beautiful story about two people who loved each other and accepted each other and they happened to be vampires. And the idea of exploring love in a context of immortality, if you are challenged with immortality, is it a blessing? Is it a curse? And what does that do to your commitment?”
Both actors agreed that they were playing characters who were more animal than human. They thought of the vampires as feral wolves. “For some people this is vampire film, for some people it’s a fairy story and for other people, it’s a documentary,” says Swinton.