Movie review: Art, style are life in Jarmusch's latest

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICEMay 23, 2014 

  • ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE ***

    Rated: R for language and brief nudity. Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska. Director: Jim Jarmusch. Running time: 123 minutes. Theater: Flicks.

With their finely chiseled clavicles and cheekbones, their nocturnal habits and exquisite taste, Adam and Eve are about the coolest couple you could imagine. (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, which definitely helps.)

Adam lives in a vast apartment in the picturesque ruins of Detroit, surrounded by vinyl records and vintage guitars acquired by an eager young gofer named Ian (Anton Yelchin). Eve haunts the alleys of Tangier, speed-reading old books in every known language and lingering in an all-night cafe with Christopher Marlowe, who still regrets, five centuries after the fact, not receiving proper credit for Shakespeare's plays.

It is part of the conceit of "Only Lovers Left Alive," Jim Jarmusch's latest slow-burn celebration of art, style and aimless conversation, that old Kit Marlowe (a marvelously grizzled John Hurt), one of the original literary outlaws, is alive and well, if a bit weary.

Yes, another vampire movie. But Jarmusch is not Stephenie Meyer, Swinton is not Kristen Stewart, and the film is less about sex than about art. Vampirism serves as a metaphor not for insatiable desire but for passionate creativity.

Jarmusch imagines the tribe of the blood-consuming undead as a kind of aesthetic aristocracy, counting in their ranks the world's geniuses of painting, fiction, cinema and music.

Adam, Eve and their dwindling ilk are especially sensitive to certain forms of beauty. They are muses and ideal critics.

Adam and Eve are not the type to go out and bite necks: They purchase their nutrition from medical professionals and drink it from long-stemmed goblets.

But the film does not hesitate to make another familiar metaphorical link - one between vampirism and addiction. After these vampires taste blood, their heads roll back and the room spins. And when supplies dwindle, things grow desperate in a hurry.

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