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If you want to find the definition of a pretentious art house movie then Jim Jarmusch’s latest movie Only Lovers Left Alive supplies that demand, a movie that is full of itself, as it digs deeper into literature, science and philosophy.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a reclusive vampire musician in Detroit who spends his time collecting guitars and other antiques and has fallen into a suicidal melancholia. His only contacts are a underground dealer, Ian (Anton Yelchin) and a hematologist, Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright). On the other side of the world his wife, Eve (Tilda Swinton) has been living a comfortable live in Tangiers with other vampires when she decides to reunite with her husband and reignite their relationship in Motown.
Only Lovers Left Alive is a very self-absorbed movie, indulging in the main character’s depression and working as a form of wish-fulfillment for Jarmusch. As he throws in a vampire who is really Christopher Marlowe, played by John Hurt and there are literary references to Lord Bryon and Marlowe’s Dr. Faust.
Only Lovers Left Alive is an art-house movie that only a certain audience will look for every bit of meaning from every single scene and frame. Jarmusch uses Hiddleston as his surrogate to criticize the downfall of art and culture, using the decaying city of Detroit as the backdrop and symbol to illustrate this, including showing Detroit’s major theater which had been turned into a parking lot.
Jarmusch and his team do get a great cast for their movie and Hiddleston and Swinton do work well together, having chemistry and showing themselves as the thespians that they are. But it was Mia Wasikowska as Eve’s sister, Ava, who had the best role, injecting some energy in the proceedings. She added conflict to the relationship as Adam and Eve have differing opinions about her as Ava is a character who has much more younger, child-like personality and being unable to control her thirst. Wasikowska should have been introduced into the movie earlier to give Only Lovers Left Alive more of a dramatic drive. Jeffrey Wright too was underused, only appearing for two scenes.
Jamusch makes a very slowly paced, drawn out movie, using long montages of driving and conversation about the relationships and past. With the bland, dark cinematography and plodding approach led to Only Lovers Left Alive to be a very boring and bland movie that is overhyped due to the director’s reputation.
Only Lovers Left Alive does have the occasional witty line, usually courtesy of Swinton and is out its most visually engaging when a dead body has to be deposed. But it is a movie that has little of a narrative, more focused on being arty and philosophical, then telling an interesting vampire story.