Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive review

    I can't believe this one slipped under my radar. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires. With John Hurt and the girl who starred in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland too! Really, I should have been all over this movie from the very beginning. Anyway, kudos to Mrs. Phipps because she's the person who recommended this movie to us. So what do I think?

    This is the best vampire movie I've ever seen, or at least one of the best. Which is surprising because this movie actually has no plot whatsoever. It reminds me of my old Vampire: The Masquerade games where the sessions would consist of the player characters sitting around talking for hours rather than doing anything of note. Despite that, this movie is really-really good. I'm not exaggerating.

The casting is perfect. I could buy them as vampires in real-life.
     The premise of the film are Adam and Eve (all-but-stated to not be their real names) are a pair of married vampires who live apart. Adam is a professional rocker who lives in Detroit and has seen said city go from being the music capital of the world to, well, Detroit.

     Eve is a much older vampire who has seen the rise of modern civilization as a blessing rather than a curse. Adam is suicidal, contemplating taking a wooden bullet to the heart, so Eve decides to do an emergency intervention and rush to his side. That's the movie, actually. There's a subplot about Eve's sister Ava coming to visit but it's really about the development of these two characters and how they deal with the ennui of immortality. It's a character piece whose subjects just happen to be vampires and I'm impressed with that. Not since Interview with a Vampire have I seen a vampire movie so interested in the concept of what it is to be undead.
    What I really liked was the social commentary of the movie. While I use the term Gothic Punk liberally, this movie does a nice subdued version. Adam is disgusted with the human race's lack of progress, their general stupidity, and their unwillingness to fight for anything beyond their own egos. He's known some of the greatest artists in history and is irritated when they're forgotten or misrepresented (Christopher Marlowe, hilariously played by John Hurt, is representative of this).

Tom Hiddleston oozes charm every moment he's on screen.
    The use of Detroit is perfect for a vampire's home city as it's a city with some of the greatest music history in America but to say it's hit hard times would be an understatement. You can feel Adam's pain as he looks to see the poverty, suffering, and hopelessness of a city he has come to have great sentimental attachment to.

    There's even a minor environmental message as many vampires have died of blood poisoning due to the amount of pollution and other toxins humans have put in their veins. Drinking "straight" from the vein is hazardous to your health now. The environmental message also works as a commentary on drugs as it's fun and exciting but can end up running your life (with Ava) or simply killing you because not everyone is very cautious with their use.

    Tilda Swinton's Eve is a great character as she has managed to keep an optimistic view of the world despite living through the Black Death, Crusades, and much-much worse. I liked the film's viewpoint on why she's more successful at immortality than Adam. Adam gets attached to things and can't move on while Eve is always moving around, absorbing new things, and learning. Charles Darwin gets called out during one of their conversations and it's true, evolution is about adaptability.
Fangs for the memories!

    The supporting cast for this movie is great with the aforementioned John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska being vampires who add quite a bit to the storyline. There's not that many characters in the movie, five or six total, but they each lend a different perspective on immortality.

    Ava is a perpetual child, refusing to grow up and yet probably being better adapted to the modern world than Adam. John Hurt's Christopher Marlowe attempts to nurture new genius in the next generation, showing a concern for the world which may one day leave him behind.

    Even the movies props and costuming department tell a story. The vampires lives are reflected in their possessions or lack or possessions. Rather than simply making them obnoxiously rich, though they are, they tend to accumulate things which are emotionally precious to them. Their clothes also reflect where they last stopped caring about their styles with Ava, for instance, being slightly out of date while Adam still dresses like it's the Seventies.

Finally enough time to read.
    Hell, I haven't even gotten into how funny the movie is despite its weight subject matter. I laughed aloud at least a dozen times. I won't spoil any jokes but everything from "Soul Dracula" to Ava's bratty teenage-daughterness makes this movie awesome.

    This is, essentially, an existentialist movie where it talks about what the purpose of living life in general is. Too often, we're focused on its imminent end to give a really long think about what we're really planning to do with it.

    If I were to describe this in Vampire: The Masquerade terms, this is the perfect movie to describe Clan Toreador to people if you don't think Interview with a Vampire was enough. Adam and Eve are Friendly Neighborhood Vampires and perhaps a little too harmless to please those vampire fans who enjoy the undead as horribly violent offenses against humanity but they're a lot more believable than most. Neither of them particularly cares when one of their human acquaintances dies off (and they quickly dispose of the body) but still consider it to be a waste which should have been avoided.

    Only Lovers Left Alive is a great-great film. Every vampire fan should see it. It's probably a bit too slow for some fans and, as I mentioned, the vampires are a bit too nice but those are small complaints in the grand scheme of things. It's an intimate story about immortality, life, and what the purpose of it all is once you've figured out the answer is 42 but haven't quite deduced the quest yet.


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