Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wobbly times number 175

Only Lovers Left Alive

In "Only Lovers Left Alive" Jarmusch puts John Hurt in the role of Christopher Marlowe, nowadays a reclusive writer living in Tangier. Seems Chris was the real writer of HAMLET and other works attributed to William Shakespeare. The script goes differently, according to Jarmusch in his latest flick. Jim is both the script writer and director. As we learn in "Only Lovers Left Alive", Marlowe faked his reported early bar room fight to the death to conceal his real being as vampire and, the literary genius feeding Shakespeare his plays. This is an old theory (not the vampire part) surrounding the true authorship of the great Shake's plays and poems. To be sure, there are other theories in with regard to the authorship of RICHARD III along with the others; but this is Jim playing with that notion.

According to Jim Jarmusch, it is now 450 or so years on and Marlowe is still alive in Tangier. He is still writing, still in a kind of self-imposed exile, much like Paul Bowles was in the Tangier of his time. And like Bowles, Marlowe the vamp has mentored a local Moroccan writer trying to make his way up into the world of recognised writers.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

[MovieMaker Magazine #53 - Winter, January 22, 2004 ]”
― Jim Jarmusch

And then we have the two main protagonists: the lovers left alive after centuries have rolled by.  And, spending their time amongst the most imaginative, creative minds of whatever era they happened to have lived through.  Of course, their names are Adam (played by Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton).  

Oh yes, Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden due to their tasting of God's forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  

No, not quite that pair, but what a pair! These two have been married since the mid 19th century. They are vampires and both know Marlowe.  Eve lives in Tangier and regularly commiserates with Marlowe. Adam's digs are in Detroit. He lives the lone life of the brooding artist. When Adam gets suicidal enough to purchase a special hard wooden bullet he can shoot into his heart, Eve, who does not know about his bullet purchase, senses it after a video phone call.  Eve is not only sensuous, she's a master sensor when it comes to almost anything, including inanimate objects.  Just a touch of say a violin will bring out its history. After a super sonic re-reading of her personal library,she gathers enough books to fit into her two suitcases and takes the first night flight (mai oui) out of Tangier to Paris and from there by red-eye to Detroit. 

The film is sprinkled with wise asides and humour; but at the centre of all the dialogue is the notion that something is awry on the planet. What's rotten in Denmark and across the globe is, to our dear vampires eyes, the utter lack of appreciation amongst the 'zombies' for their own creative geniuses in the arts and sciences.  But this is an old problem, Eve observes as she tries to quiet the suicidal impulses of Adam.  It's just that Adam sees and attempts to demonstrate to Eve, through the empty architecture of Detroit, a metaphor for where the human race is taking the planet now that it has industrialised nature.  In a way, Adam senses the commodification, the cheapening of all that surrounds him as humankind takes itself down the road to environmental collapse.  But Eve won't have it.  She sees the decay, but points to nature's irrepressible life force.  Detroit will come back, she says.  It has water and where there's water life will reappear.  

Adam and Eve are intellectuals.  They observe and create as their very good friends amongst the human community have done: Newton, Galileo, Shelley, Wollstonescraft, Schubert, Byron (although he was a pompous ass, according to Adam).  Their portraits adorn Adam's wall.  According to Adam, imagination is dying in the modern age and he and Eve and one assumes Marlowe are surrounded by 'zombies', meaning most of humanity.  But, in case you thought all vampires are creative, sensitive geniuses, Jarmusch throws in a visit by Eve's little sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), a vamp from LA--zombie central, according to Adam.  

Ava may be hundreds of years old; but she acts very much like a spoiled, contemporary teen consumer.  As soon as she arrives in Detroit, she begins appropriating everything which she takes a fancy to: Adam's precious music collection; his stash of disease free O negative blood and even his supplier friend Ian (Anton Yelchin), the one who gets him musical instruments and as mentioned, his customised wooden bullet.   

It might be worth having a toke before seeing "Only Lovers Left Alive". The music in this movie is fantastic and what the heck, Adam, Eve, Ava and Christopher are all indulging in O negative. 


  1. Maybe I'll check it out, although vampires in movies & TV is getting overdone. The blood drinking grosses me out. At least it was more symbolic than literal in Buffy, but in the Vampire Diaries they're always blood-letting. The destruction caused by decaying imagination was also eloquently portrayed in The Never Ending Story as "the nothing."

  2. The blood in this movie is more symbolic and comical than all slushy and slurpy. Don't let that put you off.