BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Aug 23rd, 2014 •

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The sweeping overhead camera spiraling downward towards a woman with alabaster skin and a long haired male opens Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE. It is a tale of two vampires confronted with surviving another century in a world overcrowded by the living. Portraits of these fanged creatures have evolved from Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi donning capes to Anne Rice’s handsome charismatic vampires of the French Quarter. This rich character study is a trans-Atlantic love story that literally transcends time.

They are patrons of the arts – Eve devours literature – Adam has an ardor for music. Stacks of books in English, Arabic, German, Italian, Spanish, and French align her Tangier apartment draped in fine fabrics. Guitars, vinyl records, and electronics clutter his house in the almost forgotten decay of Detroit.

The cities in which they dwell play a supporting role to their personalities. Tangier is on the northern coast of Morocco. It is an Islamic nation known for السحر الاسود ‘sehr eswad’ (black magic) and its non-restrictive clothing attitude. Tourists venture through the narrow passageways and streets solicited by whispers from darkened alleys, “We have what you need.” Eve may walk about veiled in a head scarf with her face concealed before sets of eyes where residents in every city know that it is wise to cast a downward glance and be mindful of themselves.

In his musical enclave, the reclusive maestro and man of science seeths in contempt for the living as he refers to the masses as zombies. His house on the outskirts of town compliments the dilapidation of the super-structures that lie in a state of decay in the city of Detroit. Once the birthplace of automation and invention and home to Motown music, it is akin to Adam’s stagnation and resilience to the finality of ashes to ashes/dust to dust.

Vampirism is a metaphor for heroin addiction. Blood is the essence of their existence. An apt title for ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE would have been,The Heroin Diaries, Nikki Sixx’s autobiography. Within sight and scent, human blood triggers an auto-response of flaring nostrils and an almost sensual arousal. However, one must practice constraint and await “the good stuff.” After all, this is the century plagued with blood borne pathogens that will sicken the healthiest of vampires. Whether poured from a decanter and savored, a swig from a flask, or frozen on a stick, the crimson fluid is the sole essential nourishment. The camera swoons with the rush from gulping down mouthfuls. As movies of the past have demonstrated, the need is so great that the blood craved incisor piercing derelicts of the devil may resort to rodents for feasting when supply is scant. Adam and Eve would never stoop so low. They would view this act with repulsion as they are worldly, refined, and educated.

Adam lives out his mundane melancholy existence from gloaming through the night under the influence of music. With his Morrissey-like angst, somber outlook, and acedia – his “sorrow of the world” burden – lends to his description by fellow vampire Marlowe as a “suicidal romantic scoundrel.” Having lived centuries, this accomplished musician has been in the midst of our greatest artists. It is he who is uncredited for writing pieces submitted to the masters whose names have been forever etched into the halls of music.
Eve is Adam’s inamorata. Cultured with an appreciation for refinement, she continues to pulse with life and feels the vibrations that anything once alive possesses. Her voracious appetite for the written word is not limited to a single language. Friend to fellow vampire Marlowe, their mutual appreciation for literature is shared as he has penned literary classics attributed to another author that he calls an “illiterate philistine.”

Although ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE may be thin on plot, it is a portrait of lives that have spanned centuries. With the progression of age the pace naturally slows, thus, lending to the film’s rhythm. The rich visual textures and hypnotic musical choices enhance Yorick Le Saux’s camera work. The disc offers behind the scenes footage, Yasmine Hamdan music video, and close to thirty minutes of deleted and extended scenes. With the exception of one entirely deleted scene shot in Tangier, the stuff left behind was a wise decision. Jarmusch’s film gives a complex humanity to the creatures of the night once portrayed as the big nose, long fingered vampire, Nosferatu. Neither Adam nor Eve are evil entities. A vampyric appreciation for life through a prolonged existence eventually leads to boredom and welcoming of a long overdue death. Et mourir de plaisir.

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