Jim Jarmusch’s first films since 2009 is also his best in over a decade. A vampire film filled with (surprise!) goofy irony, methodical long takes, deadpan acting, and a very present, slow burn score, Only Lovers Left Alive is thoughtful and silly, verging on the pretentious but self-deprecating enough to not quite be that on-the-nose.
Jumping between Tangier and Detroit, Jarmusch shoots both locations gorgeously and uniquely: the sepia-stained, narrow back alleys of the former, seen largely through Tilda Swinton’s Eve’s eyes:
-the wide open, decaying, blue-orange space of the latter, seen mostly from the view of Adam’s (Tom Hiddleston) car:
For Jarmusch, and his main characters Adam and Eve, the locations are equally impressive and beautiful.
Jarmusch really favors overhead shots and dissolving, rhythmic montages here:
As you can see above, even many insert shots are from the bird’s eye view. These frames give the film a godly quality – tableaus that we look down upon from a privileged (or, perhaps, simply a separate/different) position.
There’s an emphasis on technology in here that I’m sure is supposed to be funny. It is. There’s something humorous about centuries old beings talking about Hamlet and Faust one moment and the next Facetiming on their iPhones:
Or, for Adam, an old rocker, the original hipster, relying on analog to do the work:
The above difference seems to run throughout Only Lovers Left Alive. Analog vs. digital; new vs. old; untouched Tangier vs. crumbling Detroit; tainted blood vs. pure blood. The film is an ode from Jarmush to that old frontier, but it’s not pessimistic about the future. Eve embraces Apple’s technology and Jarmush doesn’t shy from displaying its use (sure, it’s cool that Adam hooks up an old tube TV to bring her image across oceans, but she can lounge in bed and hit one button. Her way is easier).
Jarmusch has frequently looked to a past time (even Broken Flowers began with a colorful nod to the trusty ‘ol US Postal Service), and though he doesn’t entirely bemoan the current course, he certainly is to be found more in misanthropic Adam than content Eve. It is, after all, the fault of the 2014 humans (“zombies” as they’re called) that Adam and Eve may have to renege on their self-imposed abstention from taking blood violently from the source.
Tangier is really pretty in this film. I love this repeated shot – another overhead – that shows Eve constantly walking out into the night. It’s a vertiginous perspective that almost superhumanly leaves her in her upstairs apartment while she simultaneously departs: