Bloody Hell, hez cool.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, Recorded Picture Company)

Cool is always a dangerous adjective — the moment you call something cool, it isn’t anymore. As an Indie film director deeply familiar with this self-defeating principal, Jim Jarmusch’s latest film Only Lovers Left Alive [2013] is an ingeniously conceptual film with a rather cool approach to the position the modern artist, breaking down the hipster dominated mentality we all associate them with.

Jarmusch’s narratives have traditionally been deep character explorations. This time he’s focused on breathing new life into Bram Stoker’s theory of the blood dependant recluse through his own vampiric original lovers — Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton). Adam has fallen into a deep Kobain-esc downward spiral, which is beautifully reflected in his music and social cynicism. His Eve, on the other hand, has taken much better care of herself during their hundred year parting parting. Her insatiable passion for literature has given her a survivor’s courage and optimism, and she becomes a kind of pseudo-mother for Adam’s weak willpower to go on. Swinton is a perfect casting choice to be Adam’s rock, providing the warm kindness that forms the beauty of the pair’s coupling. While Adam faces the dark truths of his life, Eve insists he looks outward from himself to the wider beauty of the world.

So much of Only Lovers is in the soundtrack, which is a deep emotional reflection of Adam’s grunge obsession. Being the Indie rockstar he is, Jarmusch wrote the soundtrack through a collaboration with legendary Dutch lute player Jozef van Wissem and his own band SQÜRL. In coming out of Stranger Than Paradise [1989] and Mystery Train [1989], Dead Man[1995] and Ghost Dog[1999], Jarmousch has always had a kind of careful sensibility for his film’s sound. As most of his black and white prove though, Jarmusch really pulls off the cool, hum-drum style through that bules guitar slink. With Detroit dominating most of the Only Lover’s setting, the slow, slow moans of Gibson feedback define the emotional shadows which Adam and Eve drift through. It’s just one of those careful mergings of imagery with personally written musical expression that echoes right through the film.

Most people would probably describe Adam and Eve as, essentially, hipsters; they reject the present and crave the long forgotten possibilities of past geniuses. Adam’s disappointment at man’s pollution of the Earth and the dominance of capitalist consumerism is obviously not a symptom reserved only for vampires. It’s the same rationale both classic and contemporary artists wrestle with in the creation of their craft — how can my art change anything? Is it even original? Adam and Eve have no say in their society anymore, hence they turn their gaze to the wonders of the past, or in Adam’s case, inward to a growing hopelessness. With these fundamental questions in place, Jarmusch uses Only Lovers to hold a mirror to the artistic endeavours that prior the 21stcentury. Much of his music too reflects his own self-deprecating dissatisfaction that we see mirrored in Adam, a dissatisfaction in his creative achievements. Having said this, Jarmusch is incredibly well versed in culture, as his dialogue skims across so many small flecks from the past that it feels like an art lover’s Easter egg hunt. Stoker would love the lovers’ blood drinking ritual being turned into a blurred, slow-motion head-tracking shot that tips the hat to cinematography of the acid tripping’60s.

Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive smashes the stigma of hipster values. It fully expands society’s dependence on progress and sheds a tear for the ignored alternatives of the past. Jarmusch continues his sly, cross-cultural exploration of in this slow-ride through 2000 years of human history. This is a film all art students should treat themselves to — an education from one of the daddies that made independent cinema cool.


Originally published at