"Snobbish Bohemian Vampires"
What You Need To Know:
Once again, Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch avoids story and plot conventions to focus on character, atmosphere, and ideas. However, while the characters and atmosphere may be interesting because they are rather unique and striking, the ideas just seem to offer viewers a kind of hollow humanism. These vampires are humanist snobs. Artistically, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE ultimately is a failure, though perhaps an interesting failure. Also, its humanist worldview is annoyingly self-righteous, elitist and politically correct, with lots of strong foul language.
(HHH, PCPC, AbAb, EvEv, LLL, VV, S, NN, A, DD, MM) Very strong, somewhat strident, humanist worldview with a strong politically correct attitude(s) being generally expressed, in a story about two isolated vampire lovers condescendingly removed from a broken outside world, plus (in connection with the movie’s PC attitude) a couple overt derogatory comments about Christianity and Christians and a positive comment or two favoring Darwin and his theory of evolution; at least 40 obscenities (mostly “f” words with some “s” and “h” words), one strong profanity when a man is suddenly startled, and four light profanities; strong implied violence when a young female vampire kills a young man instead of “turning” him and when two vampires bare their teeth while approaching a young man and woman kissing, with the implication that the vampires intend to turn the couple into vampires too, plus one elderly vampire dies apparently from lacking purified human blood to live (in the story’s context, regular human blood is too infected with disease to be safely consumed by vampires); implied sex between two lead vampires; upper female nudity in one scene, rear female nudity in another scene, and upper male nudity in several other scenes; alcohol use in a bar scene; no smoking, but vampires act like they get an opium or heroin high after they drink purified human blood; and, an elitist view of art and science and culture (including humanity), male vampire condescendingly calls human beings “zombies” (despite having an apparent affection and compassion for one young man who helps him get and buy special things he wants), and an amoral attitude throughout the movie.
Idiosyncratic filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s latest movie, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, is an artsy drama about two art-worshipping vampire lovers trying to survive a broken modern world. ONLY LOVERS EFT ALIVE is decidedly better than Jarmusch’s last movie, the overly cryptic and pretentious THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. However, it still suffers from the filmmaker’s obsession with character, setting and ideas over story and plot. Also, the worldview is too humanist and, ultimately, rather snobbish. It’s the worldview of a humanist misanthrope who prefers ideas over real people, especially the average humdrum person (or at least seems to prefer them).
Inspired by a story written by Mark Twain, the movie focuses on two vampires, Adam and Eve, living thousands of miles away from one another in different parts of the world.
Adam has secluded himself in a large rundown house somewhere near the outskirts of a rundown Detroit. Adam buys special purified human blood from a hospital doctor in town. A musician who creates alternative rock music that he keeps to himself, Adam also buys valuable antique guitars on the black market from a young human named Ian.
Eve is living in Tangier in Morocco. There, she hobnobs with an elderly vampire who apparently is the real Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright whom the movie considers to be the real writer behind Shakespeare. Himself a vampire, Marlowe supplies Eve with the purified human blood she needs to survive.
No longer able to live without her, Adam urgently summons Eve to Detroit. In between bouts of sex, erudite conversations about history and art and science, and intoxicating sips of purified human blood, Adam and Eve renew their centuries old bonds of love. However, their idyll is suddenly interrupted by a visit from Eve’s wild, careless, annoying, and selfish younger sister, Ava.
Ava’s visit leads to the movie’s big plot question: Can Adam and Eve continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
Once again, Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch avoids story and plot conventions to focus on character, atmosphere, and ideas. However, while the characters and atmosphere may be interesting because they are rather unique and striking, the ideas just seem to offer viewers a kind of hollow hubristic humanism. These vampires, especially the two lead vampires and, of the two, especially Adam, are humanist snobs. Thus, several times during the movie, Adam offers self-righteous, condescending commentary on Hollywood, popular culture, human stupidity (other people’s, never his own), religion, and science. Only he and Eve, and their friend, Marlowe, have the right ideas, taste, intelligence, and knowledge. Of course, this kind of humanist hubris usually, if not always, comes from the Left. So, in a way, there’s a Marxist, communist subtext to ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, but, admittedly, this point is debatable. The movie does seem to excoriate Christianity and promote Darwinistic evolution in a couple lines of dialogue, however. So, there’s a strong politically correct tone to the movie’s condescendingly humanist worldview. ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE also contains an excessive, gratuitous amount of foul language, including an overuse of “f” words, as well as brief nudity.
Artistically and cinematically, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE ultimately is a failure, though perhaps an interesting failure. Finally, its humanist worldview is more annoying, especially for its pseudo-intellectual snobbery, than it is extremely offensive. So, MOVIEGUIDE® gives the movie Two Stars and rates it a Minus Three.