Quentin Tarantino. David Lynch. Woody Allen. Just to name a few, in my opinion, wildly overrated directors. Just do not get the appeal (Tarantino is king of the list. WHY does everyone love his ultra-violence and even more ultra-unrealistic dialogue so damn much? People, come to your senses, I beg you).
Also on this list is someone who, thankfully, isn’t nearly as prolific: Jim Jarmusch. My introduction to him was in the form of Dead Man with Johnny Depp, a movie I didn’t particularly want to see, but I was awoken one night by Angela, the wild lesbian film student who had lured us to Denver through an AOL friendship. She insisted I take in a midnight show with her (and her friends). I was so smitten, if she’d proposed a road trip to Mexico I would have given it serious consideration. People didn’t often say no to Angela, she was one of those winning kinds of characters (life lesson #3: NEVER a good idea to let someone wrap you that tightly around their finger).
So to the little arthouse theater we went. Thirty minutes in, Angela et.al. were bored and were taking the party elsewhere. I stayed, probably because I was really irked to be dragged out of bed just to be part of her entourage. I regretted that decision though. This has to be one of the worst, most boring movies I’ve ever seen. Depp is traveling through the Wild West for a job offer. He gets shot and, from what I remember between naps, spends the rest of the movie slowly bleeding out while looking for help, most of it in a state of delirium between the blood loss and peyote buttons. I might not be remembering that 100% right, but by the time I left the theater I felt like I’d suffered serious blood loss. Firmly in the “two hours of my life I’ll never get back” category.
The point is, this movie tarnished the name of Jim Jarmusch forever in my mind. Hey, I’m not one of the hoi polloi who only likes populist stuff; I gave it more of a chance than the film students did. It just…wasn’t good.
Fast forward 19 years, and I’m in love with Tom Hiddleston (not Angela love, but I do watch movies for him I’d never give a second look otherwise). Which brings me to Only Lovers Left Alive starring him and Tilda Swinton. Directed by old Jim, which made me literally flinch on reading, but for Hiddleston I was willing to give him a second chance.
Second and last. Maybe not AS bad as Dead Man, but another two hours of my life resentfully lost, most emphatically.
They are a pair of vampires who have grown bored with eternity. They’re so jaded and aloof, they’ve even removed the most iconic thing about being undead: they don’t bite necks, but rather sip blood from the donation bank delicately from cocktail glasses (they’re worried about disease, but why if you can’t die?) There’s an obvious attempt to liken blood ingestion with taking drugs, as they sink into a rapturous, heroin-like trance after indulging, which seems like an excuse to slow the “action” down even more.
Not a damn thing happens in this movie, and worse, it’s shown in real time. Lots of scenes of them zoned out on a couch, or driving leisurely around town, just BEING.
I do enough of that in my real life, I watch movies to experience something a little more exciting. There’s not even any sex, although we do get one almost full nude of Tom’s perfect body (I’m sorry, my darling; not enough to make up for the rest of this steaming pile of art wank).
I mean, as vampires go, Tom is very, very hot all gothed out. If he sang or something it would be one thing, but his music is of the droning, monotonous instrumental variety (so ideal for the movie, I guess). Tilda is another story: I’ve never thought much of her (not since she did the impossible and made me hate Young Adam, a movie chockablock full of naked Ewan McGregor having more sex than a PWP (Plot, What Plot?) fanfic). Then she starred in David Bowie’s last video and all I can see her as is a female him.
So, in between naps, the storyline is bored vampire couple suffering through eternity. Then her bratty sister, also a vamp (Mia what’s-her-name from Alice in Wonderland) shows up and ruins their comfortable complacency by killing Adam’s human who supplies him with hard to find stuff like guitars and wood bullets in case he decides to off himself (funniest line in an otherwise dreary script: Adam walks in on her with the corpse on the couch. “You drank Ian!” This also does not make up for the rest of the dreck).
Did I mention their names are Adam and Eve? (Not THAT Adam and Eve.) Though instead of going the obvious route and naming her sister Lilith, she’s Eva. Always keeping us on our toes, old Jim is. Oh, and they call humans “zombies” — get it? Because we’re walking dead? I don’t think I’ve disliked a pair of vampires this much since before or after Edward and Bella.
Anyway, so with Ian dead they flee to Tangiers, only to find their pal Christopher Marlowe (yes, THAT Christopher Marlowe, played bewilderingly by John Hurt who surely has no shortage of job offers) dying from a blood sickness. He gives them a flask containing the last of his stash of good blood, which is only enough to get by until they find an isolated couple of lovers and drink them the old fashioned way. The end.
I eagerly went to Rotten Tomatoes to see others share my misery. To my astonishment, the critics loved it. “Profound,” “moving,” “gorgeously ambient,” “a vampire movie for our age.” They were obviously able to stay awake through the whole thing, and I missed all the good stuff the couple of times I nodded off. (I don’t think that was the case).
I could stand their write-ups more than the snobby Jarmusch fans, who accused anyone that disliked this of just coming for Hiddleston looking for another Loki-like performance. Now be fair; I DID come for him, but I knew this wouldn’t be Loki. I sat through The Deep Blue Sea (not THAT Deep Blue Sea — he plays a philandering airman after WWII, a real dick actually) for this man. I’m no teenage fangirl.
“Everyone knows you don’t watch a Jarmusch movie for the plot,” one of them scoffed. Really? And you’re all fine with that? Because if that’s a hard and fast rule, count me out.
I can handle slow moving and ambient; one of my favorites is Lost in Translation, a quiet sweet little flick where nothing much happens. It just makes me happy. And I’m no stranger to quirky, niche directors; I was truly sad and perplexed the day I realized not everyone loves Wes Anderson. But I would never say someone was less intelligent or had worse taste just because they disagree with me (except Tarantino. Anyone who likes him is clearly mad. And Jarmusch, obvs).