“Jarmusch’s twelfth feature Only Lovers Left Alive could be a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy,” suggests Max Nelson in Reverse Shot. “Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), the cheekily named married vampires at the movie’s center, have been alive for a long time—in her case, long enough to have spent centuries poring over Renaissance poetry in the original Italian; in his, long enough to have hung out with Byron and Jack White, with time in between to teach himself quantum theory. They’re the ultimate Jarmusch heroes, living through books, songs and works of art until they’ve read it all, heard it all, and know it all. They might be the first of the director’s protagonists to truly earn their vague air of cultural superiority, because they’re the first with the luxury of having unlimited time to develop encyclopedic bodies of knowledge and flawless taste. When they fly international (she’s based in Tangier; he in Detroit), they give their names as Stephen Daedalus and Daisy Buchanan…. In a sense, their marriage is a blissed-out vision of what it’s like to live—and love—through mutual aesthetic appreciation.”
When Only Lovers Left Alive screened as a Special Presentation in Toronto, Fernando F. Croce wrote to Notebook editor Danny Kasman that “Jarmusch eventually feels the need to introduce some kind of plot with the appearance of Eve’s troublemaking little sister (Mia Wasikowska), but for the most part he’s happy to just soak in the voluptuous, sacramental ennui of this twosome as they raptly run their fingers over old guitars and visit Jack White’s childhood home. Hipsterism as an undead state is an easy joke, but Only Lovers Left Alive plays to Jarmusch’s strengths as a director of rhythms, of odd, narcotizing vibes. Starting with the image of a starry night sky slowly spiraling into the shape of a vinyl record, it has the senses-tickling mix of elegance and grunge of a Jean Eustache film. Even with the cute-shaggy gags, it’s a worldview saved from nihilism only by the creation and enjoyment of art, by the hyper-concentrated emotion that can only exist behind the complete deadpan of these characters. The result isn’t Murnau’s ‘symphony of horror,’ but, as Adam at one point says, ‘some pretty great funeral music,’ darkly sweet and elating.”
At Twitch, Kurt Halfyard notes that the “tone is pregnant with the kind of disaffected slow gaze that would probably result from a century or three on this imperfect earth with its revolving social cycles. It achieves a modern-Gothic romanticism better than pop culture’s own aging vampire-queen Anne Rice ever managed in novel form or when adapted to celluloid. It evokes the people exodus and urban decay of Motor City in such a transcendent fashion that it nearly renders Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Detropia redundant…. Only Lovers Left Alive is akin to listening to an exceptionally good album from end to end.”
“In one of many self-consciously clever lines in the film, Eve blames the modern-day stigma against vampires on ‘Shelly, Byron, and those French assholes I used to hang around with.'” Julie Miller for Vanity Fair: “Early on, it’s clear that Adam and Eve are gentleman and gentlewoman vampires—the kind who go to the trouble of impersonating surgeons to procure blood instead of gauchely gnawing on people’s necks.”
The Dissolve‘s Scott Tobias: “It’s a hangout movie with many pleasures small and large, including a typically eclectic soundtrack and sharp turns by Anton Yelchin as an enthusiastic black market wheeler-dealer and John Hurt as a droll Christopher Marlowe. The vampire genre needed this movie desperately.”
Time Out New York‘s Joshua Rothkopf: “It’s intended for vinyl hoarders who stay up all night remembering the good old days—i.e., Jarmusch’s most intimate fans—and you’d better believe that’s us.”
Marlow Stern interviews Hiddleston for the Daily Beast. Earlier: Reviews from Cannes. New Yorkers would have to run out right now to catch this evening’s screening, but there’ll be another one Saturday afternoon.
Update, 10/11: At Indiewire, Clint Holloway has extensive notes from the press conference with Jarmusch and Swinton.
Update, 10/14: Only Lovers is one of the films Peter Labuza and Tony Dayoub discuss in the latest Cinephiliacs podcast.
Update, 10/15: “The surprise in Lovers is that Swinton is the more playful, easygoing of the two,” finds Jesse Hassenger at the L: “it’s Hiddleston who mopes about and barricades himself in his Detroit home, rigging weird gadgets to do the work of everyday technology (his videochat comes through on an old CRT television). The Detroit of this movie is perfectly post-haunted; the real horror movie has come and gone…. It goes on a little long for its modest aims, but Only Lovers Left Alive is Jarmusch’s drollest movie in a decade or so (probably since Coffee and Cigarettes). The only major drawback: David Bowie should be in here somewhere, don’t you think?”
Update, 10/23: The press conference with Jarmusch and Swinton:
Updates, 4/9: “Jarmusch has created a requiem for a way of looking at life that is being increasingly relegated to the shadows,” writes Time Out‘s Keith Uhlich. “Yet it’s the kind of dirge that, perversely and profoundly, sends you back out into a volatile world with a glad-to-be-alive high.”
“In a marketplace flush with vampire movies, Jarmusch isn’t interested in supernatural horror, romantic mythology, or eternal love as the ultimate expression of teenage infatuation,” writes Scott Tobias at the Dissolve. “Only Lovers Left Alive accomplishes the neat trick of reinventing a moribund genre as a distinctly Jarmuschian hangout movie.”
“If Jarmusch filters the West through Blake in Dead Man and remixes samurai codes in Ghost Dog, here he taps the conceit of the vampire as oldest-of-old-school hipster, communing with artists across the ages,” writes Nicolas Rapold in the L. “Jarmusch in a way has been making ‘late movies’ for years now, but what grabs hold of your heart here isn’t the film’s askew reality but the spreading warmth of Adam and Eve’s very poignant bond.”
This is Jarmusch’s “most emotionally direct film since Dead Man, and maybe his finest, period,” writes Stephanie Zacharek in the Voice.
Interviews: Chris Patmore with Jarmusch for Indiewire, Carl Swanson with Swinton for New York and Amy Nicholson with Hiddleston for the Voice.
Updates, 4/10: “The film is marked by a mood of exhaustion, an end-of-era fatigue that comes across as strangely heady in its world-weariness,” writes Jonathan Romney for Film Comment. “Jarmusch undertakes this project in the full knowledge that if you’re making a vampire film now, you might as well be making it as if it were to be the very final example of its genre: a genre facing its exhaustion, even luxuriating in it.”
“In many respects,” writes A.A. Dowd at the AV Club, “Adam and Eve are nocturnal cousins to the angels from Wim Wenders’s Wings Of Desire: They’re secret observers of history, living records of the past with little control over the future. But Jarmusch has no interest in the kind of guilt and grief Wenders wove through his movie; Only Lovers comes in a hipper, sexier shade of melancholy.”
“If your life was changed by punk rock—before Green Day sent it into the mainstream—this is a movie for you,” advises Steve Erickson at Gay City News. “If not, you’re likely to find the film’s vampires more annoying than romantic…. Only Lovers Left Alive is as cool as it sets out to be, but by the halfway point, a certain smugness sets in. Adam and Eve refer to humans as ‘zombies.’ I can’t help but suspect that this is also the film’s attitude toward people who don’t own turntables or shop at thrift stores for vintage finds.”
In an interview for the Playlist, Jarmusch tells Rodrigo Perez about Tilda Swinton: “She’s just one of the most fantastic people I know. She is full of creativity, she’s open, she’s incredibly knowledgeable about so many things. She can tap into all facets of human expression and nature and everything. She’s just remarkable. At one point when we were shooting a scene in The Limits of Control in Madrid, we did a take, we shot something with her and it was so beautiful. I said to her, ‘Tilda, will you marry me?’ She said, ‘Oh darling, we already are married.’ It was the high point of my life.”
And Anna Tatarska talks with Swinton for Slant.
Updates, 4/11: “I consider it the best film that Jarmusch has ever made,” declares Steven Shaviro. “When Adam says that Detroit is empty because ‘everybody left,’ Eve replies that Detroit will rise again and bloom, ‘when the cities in the south are burning.’ For her, even the catastrophe of global warming will not put an end to everything. At the age of 60, at any rate, I am seduced by the film’s combination of yearning and melancholy and romantic refusal of the governing order with a determination to survive, and even flourish, nevertheless.”
For the New York Times‘ A.O. Scott, “this elegy for the tradition of the cool has a defensive, even reactionary undercurrent. At bottom, it’s a generational protest against the zombie kids and their enablers, digitally distracted creatures who don’t appreciate the tactile, sensual glories of the old things. I can certainly sympathize, but I’m also a bit unnerved to see one of the avant-garde heroes of my own vampire youth turn conservative.”
“This may be the most rockist movie ever made,” writes the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody. “The movie, with its vehemently anti-pop orientation, sets up a hidden cultural aristocracy that burrows, termite-like, through the history of art to deliver the highest treasures surreptitiously, communicating secretly with the other sanguinary hipsters while satisfying the vulgar zombie clamor…. The power, the delight, and the pitfall of Only Lovers Left Alive is its creation of a grand artistic mythology in which Jarmusch himself assumes his place. The script is so clever that it nearly puts over a sensibility that seems petrified in nostalgia and closed in among its personal archives.”
“Do I detect a note of self-satire in Jarmusch’s undead?” wonders New York‘s David Edelstein. “I’d like to think he’s poking fun at his own stylized, white-boy cool. But underneath, of course, he’s deadly serious. A ruined metropolis, a snatch of dialogue about coming water wars, a poisoned blood supply: The garden of Adam and Eve is despoiled beyond remedy. This is a charming dirge, though.”
“I don’t detect any self-pity amid the extended erotic-bohemian hangover of Only Lovers Left Alive, but there’s definitely a wistfulness and a consciousness of enormous loss,” writes Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir.
New interviews with Jarmusch: Bilge Ebiri (Vulture) and Michelle Lhooq (Vice).
Updates, 4/12: “No choice of setting could be more eloquent than Detroit,” argues Celluloid Liberation Front in the Notebook. “The one place on earth that incarnated the euphoric splendor of capitalism and now holds up an unflattering mirror to its grotesque ‘miscalculations.’ There, where Henry Ford engineered the modern times, swallowing up Charlie Chaplin and his sentimentality, a theatre was built. It was the strategic shift from manufacturing to spectacle; the same techniques of the assembly line were adopted in the music industry, the soul, flesh and genius of negroes subsumed by Motown. Capitalism the vampire, culture its predestined victim.”
New interviews with Swinton: David Ehrenstein (Keyframe) and Anna Peele (Esquire).
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily on Twitter and/or the RSS feed. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.