Only Lovers Left Alive. With notes on other significant vampire movies, coolness, Helsinki in the eighties, and Jim Jarmusch.

Jim Jarmusch´s new movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, a love story about vampires is now out in Helsinki.
I went to see it right away, and almost didn’t tell anyone, because I wasn’t sure I had anything to say about it.
Jarmusch and I go a long way, as do many other people my age who lived in Helsinki from Permanent Vacation to Down by Law, which I still adore.
I am talking about the eighties, of course. The time when the trendiest people in town looked very much like the vampires in this movie, the difference being that makeup was applied more liberally and not very well.
Jarmusch, at that time, hung around with the Finnish directors Kaurismäki bros., and was the representative of ultimate coolness to younger people in this city. He even shot an episode of his Night on Earth in Helsinki come 90´s, not a bad movie that one, either, if not his best.
I have liked most Jarmusch movies, some better than others. (The Ghost Dog I haven’t seen, and  belive I have tried, on a DVD. After all I’m a fan of Kurosawa and samurais in general. But there is something artificial and wrong in the beginning of Ghost Dog that so far has turned me off.  I shall try until I get there.)

So I saw the film, not only because Tom Hiddleston, and in spite of Tilda Swinton, but also because I used to like Jim Jarmusch.
Now it seems Jarmusch still understands a thing or two about cool, but I do miss the roughness and imperfection of his older movies. I am almost sad to see the polished look of the films that the new technology and a bigger budget his becoming better known allows him. This is still an indie, but some of the charm is gone. That is what happens to the best of us as we get older.

Unlike Jim and I, the lovers in this film don’t get old, but they get wiser, or at least the female lead, Eve, seems to do.
The leading characters are lovers, currently called Adam and Eve (a bit cheap, if you ask me).
Eve (Tilda Swinton who makes the character credible, sensible and feminine, I was happy to see) lives in Morocco socialising with Christopher Marlowe (always terrific John Hurt). Adam (the sovereign Tom Hiddleston) lodges in Detroit making music, bying cool guitars, and trying to hide from the fans of his music. Later on, Eve’s kid sister Ava is introduced. She’s a brat, whom Adam hates for a reason. Mia Wasikovska plays her annoyingly, and so superficially it got me worried. I LOVED her in In Tratment, so that was disappointing.

Getting wiser and learning something would for me be the only attraction of being a vampire.
I have never understood what is so cool about vampires: they don’t strike me as particularly scary, let alone erotic.
(With the exception of the original Bram Stoker novel Dracula, and Gary Oldman playing the part in Coppola’s film. Especially the scene where he pets a wolf who is running free in London streets. That is one hot vampire, let me tell you!)
Do you remember The Hunger, starring the chilling David Bowie, the sexy Susan Sarandon and the divine Catherine Deneuve? It came out in 1983 and was directed by Tony Scott. It was ambitious, but Only Lovers Left Alive is better, because it does not try as hard.
Unlike the most vampire movies I have seen, Jarmusch doesn’t glorify the horror or sex, and I like that.
What I like most in this film is its realism. What we have here is a realistic vampire movie with an unfailing logic.

Here are some of the realistic details I liked:

  • The vampires are portrayed as addicts, getting their necessary fix of blood with about as much glamour as a junkie getting his.
  • The sex that isn´t there: How much sex would you want to have, if you have lived, say, 500 years? No-one knows, but my guess is much less than one does at eighteen.
  •  Not just any old blood will do, because the blood can be poisoned with diseases. The blood in the movie is properly stored in the fridge, and  because we know how easily blood spoils, I thank you, Jim, for that.
  •   The blood consumed is type O negative. It must be the most convenient choice, but not knowing the blood types of the characters, I wouldn’t count out other types as impossible.
  • It is insinuated that Marlowe (the vampire) was the writer behind Shakespeare’s plays, and other classic literal stuff. Not very original, but the theory is widely known, and therefore needs no explanations, so the temptatation to use it is understandable.
  • the vampires are cultural snobs. They have had plenty of time to develop a  sophisticated taste
  • Adam´s toilet is out of order.
  • Only night flights are booked and taken.
OLLA Tom Hiddleston_not so sexy_SPC
Adam getting his fixes of type O- disguised as Dr. Faust. Tom Hiddleston not so sexy (OLLA, SPC)

The movie is more like a pastiche, rather a painting than a dramatic story, a study of the world of this one couple forever in love, and trying to go on.
I recommend it over Twilight-movies if vampires make you tick.
For visually-oriented audience that is interested in either cinematography, plain beauty, or just everything cool it almost certainly gives something. Emotionally I was not deeply touched.

Most of the acting in Only Lovers Left Alive is excellent. I cannot praise Tom Hiddleston enough, the words fail me.
I cannot breathe if I go into detail, so to put it as shortly as possible: Tom Hiddleston is one if the greatest British actors already, He´s only 33 years old, we haven’t seen that much of him, and that is fantastic, because that leaves us more to be antipicipated!
I just love the fact that an actor or actress does what he is supposed to, as he does.
Actor, if you’re wondering how to portray a depressed vampire, do see this film!
This is how it´s done! Subtly, with total presence and concentration.
I hope Hiddles doesn´t read the praise on him too much. If he maintains his obviously adamant work ethic and standard, I hereby promise to see everything he does that is possible here in Finland, and hopefully on the stage elsewhere, as well.
The multi-talented Tom Hiddleston seems to have a very rare talent of looking exceptionally good in long black wigs. (See Thor/Avenger-movies where he is Loki.) This is no to  be taken lightly. Try it yourself, and you will see just how easy it is!

Tom Hiddleston almost sexy as Adam, losing a game of chess to his loved one.




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