“Some jokers out there will tell you that Jim Jarmusch’s new film Only Lovers Left Alive is about vampires,” begins Jordan Hoffman at Film.com. “Those are the types of people the vampires in this movie roll their eyes at. Tilda Swinton (Eve) and Thomas Hiddleston (Adam) are two ‘spookily entangled’ (to use Einstein’s phrase) individuals. Eternal outsiders. Spiritually connected. Slow moving, withdrawn and the smartest people in the room by a hundred fold. They ought to be, as they’ve been around since the dawn of time, seem to have knowledge of upcoming events (‘Have the water wars started?’ ‘No, they’re still all about oil,’) and have had a hand in creating many of mankind’s major works of art…. Only Lovers Left Alive is, in my opinion, the next great midnight classic.”
“From the very first opening titles,” notes Jessica Kiang at the Playlist, “written in a Germanic font that immediately conjures everything from Triumph of the Will to images of big-busted ladies screaming in campy close-up in 1970s cheapie horrors (it may be the only time in Cannes that a film got a big laugh for a typeface) it’s perfectly clear that the Jim Jarmusch in whose company we’re about to spend a couple of hours is not the willfully obscure surrealist of The Limits of Control, nor the considered, melancholic philosopher behind Dead Man, nor even the oddball ragtag troubadour of Down By Law.” Only Lovers Left Alive “finds the maverick filmmaker on playful, referential and mischievous form with hugely enjoyable, if not exactly weighty or important, results. It’s an offbeat, fun, and frequently very funny film, lifted out of disposability by some wonderfully rich production design, music cuts and photography, and by the cherishable performances of the leads.”
“If there was a prize at Cannes for Most Studenty Film, this would absolutely walk off with it,” declares the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. “We flit with bat-like swiftness from Tangier to Detroit and back to Tangier, as the story unfolds: the deadpan-funny tale of beautiful vampire creatures, exquisite aesthetes with fastidious tastes, razor-sharp canines and cheekbones, and long hair not dissimilar from that worn by Michael Sheen in the Twilight movies…. Jarmusch playfully allows us to assume that they are the first humans, before canceling or modifying that assumption by bringing in Eve’s rock-chick sister Ava, played with a swinging Larndarn accent by Mia Wasikowska.”
For Jonathan Romney, writing for Screen, Only Lovers is “a passionate and consummately chic essay on science, music, time and above all love…. The film is all the more impressive in that it is consciously put together out of the hoariest clichés—drinking blood, improbably extended life cycles, the connection (à la Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction) between vampirism and the heroin lifestyle. But it’s the lightness and the sophisticated good humor with which Jarmusch recombines them that makes Only Lovers so new…. Adam is a reclusive rock musician, living in a cluttered mansion in Detroit and supplied with fresh blood by hospital medic Dr Watson (a droll jumpy turn by Jeffrey Wright). Like Mick Jagger’s rocker Turner in Performance, Adam is in hiding from the world, but still making hallucinatory new music (on ancient analogue equipment) which, to his concern, is leaking out to the world. His personal Renfield figure is music biz hustler Ian [Anton Yelchin], who supplies him with guitars and, at Adam’s request, a wooden bullet with which he’s contemplating suicide.”
Variety‘s Leslie Felperin notes that it “turns out that Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), another vampire, really wrote Shakespeare’s plays; he’s still alive and well, living in Tangiers and hanging out with Eve as the film opens…. The end credits mention Jarmusch’s longtime partner, Sara Driver, for ‘instigation and inspiration,’ and indeed the film feels a bit like a quirky, fitfully touching love letter from one aging punk to another.”
At RogerEbert.com, Barbara Scharres readily admits she’s “never been a member of the cult” of Jarmusch and calls Tilda Swinton the “cultiest of all actresses,” so clearly, this movie’s not going to be for her: “It’s all very precious, very silly, and so very thoroughly obnoxious.”
Four out of five stars from the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin, though: “Perhaps the film reuses some of its best gags a few times too many: the vampires’ use of the word ‘zombie’ to refer to normal humans is a fun deflation of the trusty ‘the-real-monster-is-man’ horror trope, but it runs out of steam by its 50th appearance. But the real reason to see this is Swinton and Hiddleston’s sexy, pallid double act: two old souls in hot bodies who have long tired of this Earth, but have nowhere else to make their home.”
“Removed from the supernatural context, Jarmusch’s latest protagonists in this undeniably light, witty sketch of a movie fall in line with the bored, retro cool outsiders found throughout his oeuvre,” finds Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “It’s refreshing to see that, in Jarmusch’s world, even the undead have a lust for life and the capacity to complain about it with soul.”
Anne Thompson reports that Sony Pictures Classics has already picked up North American rights.
Updates: “If the sheer listlessness of these characters and their travais proves swiftly irksome,” writes Guy Lodge at In Contention, that’s a familiar problem with Jarmusch—I suspect this is a fans-only effort, however en vogue the vampire genre may be these days. The energy picks up for roughly a quarter-hour, when the ever-terrific Mia Wasikowska shows up… But she departs all too quickly, and the air (or indeed the blood) goes out of the film when it returns to two-hander status, and its musings on mortality—or lack thereof—take on a self-serious, even sentimental, slant.”
But at Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier‘s a bit more enthusiastic.
“Jarmusch’s films are often concerned with the sweeping aside of history and culture,” writes Keith Uhlich at Time Out New York. “His vampires, with their Book of Genesis monikers, are the only real witnesses to things that have passed—perpetual mourners for a race of beings on whom they prefer not to feed…. Few images at Cannes have ravished me more than each character’s opium-like swoon after they sip their claret-colored libations; no screenplay has gifted me as many laugh out loud moments (the way Hiddleston resignedly speaks the line ‘You drank…Ian’ is all kinds of perfect); and no movie has sent me out into the full-mooned night, all senses elated, on as glad-to-be-alive a high.”
“Less a drama than a miniature double portrait, Jarmusch’s film creates two people whose joy, not pain, is to be together forever.” For Time‘s Richard Corliss, Adam and Eve evoke “such classic tandems as Nick and Nora, Noël and Gertie, and Gomez and Morticia, with a little Sid and Nancy for spice.”
Updates, 5/26: “For nearly an hour, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive looked as if it was shaping up to be not merely the best film of Cannes 2013, but one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen,” writes Mike D’Angelo at the AV Club. “Granted, I’m not sure how Jarmusch could have sustained what he was doing much longer, as the initial movement is essentially Woody Allen’s list of reasons why life is worth living (as enumerated by his alter ego in Manhattan) disguised as a vampire movie…. Jarmusch, Hiddleston, and Swinton pour so much uninhibited ardor into each and every moment that the movie constantly feels as if it’s about to burst from an excess of feeling.”
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy finds it to be “an addictive mood and tone piece,” a “minor-key drift through a desolate, imperiled modern world,” and “the perennial downtown filmmaker’s best work in many years, probably since 1995’s Dead Man, with which it shares a sense of quiet, heady, perilous passage…. To outsiders and the film industry, Only Lovers Left Alive might seem like an arty, left-handed attempt to make a genre movie and attract unsuspecting horror and even Twilight fans. To those who have followed Jarmusch’s career from the beginning, the film may rather be read as a coded text and perhaps the closest attempt by the enigmatic, adamantly independent director at veiled and self-consciously twisted autobiography. Certainly Jarmusch’s own known artistic tastes are completely represented by those of the retiring Adam, and the ambiance of zoned-out, highly specific connoisseurship fits perfectly with the preferences he has exhibited in his prior work.”
At the House Next Door, Jordan Cronk agrees that it’s “one of his most lyrical works to date. This move from the minimalist character pieces of his early career to the more expressionist touches of his current period has precipitated a greater, perhaps subconscious, attention to the more intangible traits of Jarmusch’s aesthetic on the part of the viewer. I get the feeling Jarmusch is concerned less with metaphor than he is with simply reflecting a universally unconscious state of existence among all creatures, living or non.”
But for Richard Porton, writing at the Daily Beast, this is “a toothless attempt to fuse the vampire genre with art-house sangfroid.”
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