Sunday, June 1, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Only Lovers Left Alive

From the idiosyncratic mind of Jim Jarmusch (Down by Law) comes "Only Lovers Left Alive,"  both a meditation on the human condition and a quirky poem to the vampire.

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a melancholic avant-garde musician. who lives in a mansion of decaying bohemia in Detroit. He seldom ventures out and his sole interaction is a nightly visit from an obsequious Ian, a kind of Grunge era Renfield character (Anton Yelchin). Ian procures whatever Adam needs from guitars that are as exotic as women to archaic technology and devices from the 40s to the 1980s. As a Luciferic and Shelleyan figure, Adam floats adrift on his isle of analog toys draped in 17th century robes. The endlessness of time is a heavy draught on the brain.

Adam experiences its blight.

His love Eve (Tilda Swinton) is Sufi slumbering in Tangier, all paleness and repose. While superhuman together, they are anemic apart, and pine for one another across space, multiple countries and shared supernal sighs.

Within Adam's heightened romantic stare we sense the desert of minutes and feel its ache. Hiddleston's very terrestrial creature has known most men of spark and sensation and now  this loner holds an ennui of alabaster in his grasp.

This is a film that emotes in its tones much more than it tells through plot or action. As a vampire film, it delivers both the excitement and the loneliness of being alone.

There is humor throughout as Adam is harassed by shadowy and nameless fans not too mention his spacey and amphetamine driven sister in law (Mia Wasikowska) who causes considerable trouble and just won't leave.

John Hurt is also here as a wry and singeing Christopher Marlowe. In a pop art kind of way he makes a Keith Richards counterpart mixed with Paul Bowles and the actor Albert Finney.

In a parallel to Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie",  buried deep within the story is Jarmusch's nostalgia for art eras of Gotham long gone. A contemporary Detroit with its ghostly buildings and wilted green spaces is a metaphor for  Jarmusch's day glo-spooked New York of the 1980s when all in the Empire State vibrated in neon, and both the B52s and Basquiat crackled  going pop.

When Adam reverently speaks of musician Jack White, it is with the energy of a Gomez Addams.

One image that haunts above the rest is the sight of Eve and Adam intertwined in bed. While this is a self conscious quote of the famous John & Yoko Rolling Stone cover, it is just as heartfelt and fitting in its reverence for Annie Leibowitz and a sweet yearning for our photographic images, once refreshing, but now Iphone-refreshed.

As obvious and cloying as these references might seem they make a Jarmuschian collage in keeping with the auteur's method, as personal as Bela's cape.

These are vamps of spirit and mind and when they enter a noisy club and gaze upon the brash masses, we feel their amused scorn behind some Rik Ocasic sunglasses.

No words are necessary.

"Only Lovers Left Alive" succeeds as a mood piece. When fangs rise, it is in an honored recognition rather than a savage bite. These are instances of  pleasured inclusion, putting us into the fold of a collective and revered thrill.

In the center of it all are Swinton and Hiddleston as slinkly folks of velvet and ice. They are no mere bloodletters but beings of pointed poignance and passivity and they stand and slope with a posture that is electrically watchable and just a bit frightening.

Lastly, under a dim Tangier archway, the director gives us our just desserts in upholding the curdle of Hammer films, while also speaking upon the memory of Jim Morrison who snakes within the motions of Lebanese rocker Yasmine Hamdan. Jarmusch is all of a tooth-tease in his last bite, cutting us to the quick and withholding our cinematic satiation but his slight of hand is so well crafted. He remains so unapologetic in bringing us this Proustian Dark Prince parade that we don't mind at all being seduced.

The vampire is director, silver haired unapologetic and uncompromising.

As a child of the night with a camera that doesn't forget, such pensiveness is like a kiss to a lost CBGB. A spasm in silver is a joy forever.

Write Ian at

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