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"Only Lovers Left Alive" resurrects the good vampire movie

Jim Jarmusch brings back vampires with bite

O-negative with tannins. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

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For the better part of the past decade, the prevailing image of the vampire in the public consciousness was a defanged, emo pantywaist who couldn't go out in the sun, not because it would burn him to ashes, but because it would make him sparkle. I thought my fervent prayers to legendary lord of the undead/cereal mascot Count Chocula had fallen on pointy deaf ears and that vampire movies had inexorably entered their twilight.

Lo, my faith hath been restored.

Only Lovers Left Alive is the latest from writer-director Jim Jarmusch (of Coffee and Cigarettes and Ghost Dog fame). The film focuses on Adam (Tom Hiddleston), and his wife, Eve (Tilda Swinton), a married couple who, despite being very much in love, are separated. Several centuries of familiarity breeds a lot of contempt and a few years of absence might make their hearts grow fonder, provided no one puts a stake through them.

Adam and Eve are vampires that don't squander the gift of eternal unlife slap-fighting with Taylor Lautner for Kristen Stewart's affections. They do what most people would do if given limitless time and opportunity: Everything. Of course, when you can do everything, there will eventually come a time when you've done everything. Then what will you do?

If you're Adam, you become sullen and depressed, and multiple lifetimes of making Nobel-worthy inventions out of rummage sale electronics and ghostwriting famous musicians to stardom do nothing to rouse you.

If you're Eve, you take a break from speed-reading through your massive library to prevent Adam from putting a wooden bullet in his chest.

If you're Eve's little sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), you show up uninvited in the middle of this and make a nuisance of yourself in ways that only a vampire can.

Tilda Swinton's Eve is easily the most intriguing of the movie's undead denizens. Swinton's skills, unconventional looks and some creative choices on the part of the makeup and wardrobe departments make for an eternally youthful, ethereal bloodsucker that simultaneously comes across as impossibly ancient.

Tom Hiddleston's Adam is far more low-key than Loki, but the blasé, gloomy nosferatu lets audiences into the mind of a man who's lived a long, full life - many times over - and accomplished everything he wants. He's ready for the end, but the end won't come. He's the quintessential "brooding vampire", but Hiddleston's take on the cliché is simply captivating.

Mia Wasikowska's Ava is so sprightly, lively and modern compared to her compatriots; you almost forget she's a vampire.  


Only Lovers Left Alive offers a blessed return to the more traditional vampire lore and films of yesteryear. Fans of the genre will see shades of broody classics such as Dracula and Interview with the Vampire as well as (slightly) more contemporary films such as The Lost Boys and The Hunger. It's familiar territory, but Jarmusch and a very talented cast make us glad to be back in it.

They all shine, but thank Count Chocula, not a single one of them sparkles.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, opens Friday, May 16, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett, Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474

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