Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A visual vampire odyssey, lost a bit in its own vision…


One of the most baffling developments in recent years is the complete obsession that the world in general has undergone with regards to vampires.  I remember when they popped up every now and again in some cult classic not many people even bothered to see.  Now, every movie has them.  Whole franchises are built around them.  Every director wants to play with them.  Teenagers want to look like them.  Tweens swear undying devotion to them. 

They make me sick.

In fact, there is no greater cinematic turn off to me than the presence of a vampire, for at this point I’m burnt out, and the funny thing is that I haven’t watched any of those ‘Twilight’ movies so I really have no reason to be burnt out.  I’m just sick and tired of hearing about them.

Despite all of that, I have to admit that ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ certainly intrigued me.  Tilda Swinton always peaks my interest, for her ability to float from quality project and interesting character to completely diverse yet equally interesting character in yet another quality project is just remarkable.  She gets it, and so whenever I see her name pop up on a marquee (do they even have those anymore?) I’m sold.

A.I.S.



Swinton, musicians, vampires, my recent interest in Hiddelston, the fact that Jarmusch is directing this, and he’s one of those directors with distinct vision; all of these things added up to the fact that I was ultimately going to see this and most likely embrace it.  ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ certainly has vision, or at least a visual flare, but for me there was something lacking, something missing from the finished product.  It spoke with a clear tone, a languid and inviting tone, and it possessed a real electric presence, but when the dust cleared and the film ended, the themes of loneliness and undying love feel underdeveloped, malnourished almost.  The abrupt ending felt slightly out of place and somewhat tacked on, and yet I’m at a loss for how it could have ended differently.  It just left me a tad cold.

That said, the story told of married vampires living separate eternities is extremely intriguing and definitely demands to be contemplated, frame for frame, and the compelling performances that circulate each scene build for a fulfilled ensemble.  Hiddelston and Swinton complement each other well, portraying a pair that is suited for each other despite their obvious differences.  Aptly named Adam and Eve, these lovers are drawn to each other’s souls despite their differing world observations, and the performances by Swinton and Hiddleston bring these characters to life.  


For me though, the film belongs to Mia Wasikowska, who shows a side of herself I have yet to see.  Her delicious line readings and slinky body language fill the frame and demand our attention.  The film takes on a different life, a fuller, richer identity when she’s on screen, that the audience can feel the weight of her departure too strongly.  When she’s gone (far too soon, I might add), we mourn. 

For me, the film doesn’t quite recover from her absence, even though it has a lot more to say and her character really isn’t an important factor into the progression of this story.


This is one of those instances where the tone is so effective and yet the overall finished product suffers from complete reliance on that tone and underdeveloped themes unable to back up the said tone.  It just feels rather hallow when it’s over, and for a film this drenched in atmosphere and intent, I expected to feel something stronger before the credits began to role.


I give it a B-.  It has so much going for it, and from a technical standpoint and an ensemble perspective, it's a winner, but I just expected (and wanted) more.  Oscar won't come close to this one, although it has some stunning music (including 'Hal', an impressive Original Song) and Wasikowska is certainly Oscar worthy here.

10 comments:

  1. You liked this one way more than I. All that tone and atmosphere was completely empty no matter how great the performances were. Whatever it was trying to say it failed miserably and came off like a bunch of pompous asses pontificating on their glorious pasts and hopeless futures.

    http://dellonmovies.blogspot.com/2014/10/only-lovers-left-alive.html

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    1. Well, I wouldn't say I liked it way more. I mean, I didn't hate it, but mainly BECAUSE of the atmosphere and the performances. I'm with you in the fact that there was just no meat in the actual storyline. It was empty, and because of that it failed at what it could have been.

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  2. I'm going to see this before the end of the month as it's likely it will work for me since I am a big fan of Jim Jarmusch.

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    1. The feel of the film is great, but there just isn't enough story here, sadly.

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  3. I do not know of this film and should look it up. Sometimes it's a good sign that the studio (studio??) does not back up a film as much as another. The one that gets all the promos usually turns out to be dreck while the quiet one is better. I like your critique and I love vampire films but I also feel this theme has been sucked dry (nyuck nyuck). I still love Coppola's Dracula. I even enjoy the campy Van Helsing. my husband and I watched the first Twilight film and we chuckled. It was geared to the 14-17 year old girls who like to swoon over corny romance novels...this one just has fangs

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    1. This is far more elegantly constructed than those teen oriented films, and like I said, even though it isn't perfect, it drips with atmosphere and the performances are all uniformly great.

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  4. I was really disappointed in this. I wanted so badly to love it. Mia felt wasted. I thought she was going to be a big part of the film, and she was in it for 10 minutes!

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    1. But those ten minutes were glorious and on a completely different level! Like, I never thought I'd say that she outacted Swinton, but she just blazed a trail of awesome through her small section of film and pretty much walked away with my attention.

      Sadly, she did just that, since when she was gone so was my attention.

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  5. I didn't know what to expect and loved it, but I'm glad we agree that Wasikowska steals the show. She's probably this year's Selena Gomez for me, though I could see Emma Stone getting a CinSpec for Birdman. :)

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    1. Sadly, I just bumped Wasikowska out of my Top Five...but she's like on the cusp, and if I decide to bump Byrne and Pike into Lead, then she'd get in for sure.

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