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Only Lovers Left Alive DVD Review

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) movie poster Only Lovers Left Alive

US Theatrical Release: April 11, 2014 / Running Time: 123 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Jim Jarmusch

Cast: Tilda Swinton (Eve), Tom Hiddleston (Adam), Mia Wasikowska (Ava), Anton Yelchin (Ian), John Hurt (Christopher Marlowe), Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Watson), Slimane Dazi (Bilal)

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The name Jim Jarmusch may be met with blank expressions by much of the general public, but it is known by those who watch movies for a living and those who make them as well. For more than thirty years, Jarmusch has written and directed films on his terms.
Often, he may have turn to Europe for funding and settle for double-digit theater counts in North America, but a number of his independent movies have earned acclaim, six of them have gained entry into The Criterion Collection, and none of them are made without attracting some distinguished artists to leading roles.

Jarmusch's three previous efforts, including Broken Flowers (by far his biggest hit), all featured Bill Murray. Only Lovers Left Alive, his latest and eleventh narrative feature, does not, instead starring four in-demand younger actors who have tasted commercial success on a grand scale in some of the biggest blockbusters of the past ten years.

This dramedy, as offbeat as any Jarmusch film, centers on a married couple of bohemian vampires. Is Jim Jarmusch trying to cash in on the Twilight craze, you might ask? Of course not. His vampires are not conventionally romantic or commercially appealing in the slightest. In fact, they're not even revealed to be vampires until 25 minutes into the movie, when you confirm that Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are actively avoiding daylight and subsisting on nothing more than the occasional cocktail made from blood bank withdrawals.

Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive" stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve, hipster vampires who have seen, heard, and done it all for centuries longer than you and I.

Adam is a paranoid recluse living in Detroit. This blasι musician and collector of old guitars and other instruments pays large wads of cash to Ian (Anton Yelchin), a member of the other surviving demographic (zombies) to get him things. Adam's latest request is for a single wooden .38-caliber bullet. Ian, Adam's rare link to the outside world and someone he's made sign a confidentiality agreement, barely even considers the request strange.

Adam gets Eve, who has been living in Tangier, Morocco, to join him in Detroit. Their reunion is marred slightly by an unannounced visit from Ava (Mia Wasikowska), Eve's kooky, Los Angeles-based younger sister, whom neither respects very much.

Jarmusch isn't much concerned with the usual topics of vampire lore. His vampires wear sunglasses, fashion themselves like aging rockers, and slowly fall backwards after consuming blood with the fleeting contentment of the heroin addicts in Trainspotting. The filmmaker is far less interested in these facets than in the notion of ageless immortality and how it shapes one's view of art and culture. Adam and Eve are frequently reflecting on their experiences with historic figures, from Schubert to Einstein to Byron to Tesla. A wall is filled with portraits of noteworthy individuals, some of whom (like Mark Twain and Buster Keaton) you are sure to recognize.

Visiting unexpectedly from Los Angeles, Ava (Mia Wasikowska) bares her fangs as a blood-kissed smile of satisfaction forms on her face. John Hurt is Christopher Marlowe, a not so ageless vampire who takes credit for Shakespeare's plays on his deathbed.

Even if you can tolerate such pretentiousness and some decidedly unfunny comedy (e.g. O-negative popsicles), you may be discouraged by the film's disarmingly slow pace. Jarmusch and French cinematographer Yorick Le Saux serve up artistic compositions, but they're well aware of that, lingering upon scenery with the occasional slow-motion shot
and more common acid rock accompaniment (some of it supplied by Jarmusch's band SQάRL).

Set primarily against the decay of a largely abandoned Detroit, Only Lovers Left Alive has some fun ideas, but is unwilling to develop them into an engaging narrative or to aspire to anything other than putting you into a jaded lull approximating how you might feel after several centuries of living on this planet.

Unsurprisingly celebrated by critics (hey, it's different!), the film grossed just under $2 million domestically, where it climbed up to a maximum of 95 theaters last spring, a year after premiering at Cannes. Though its earnings fell well short of its costs (a reported $7 million on production alone), Sony Pictures Classics was not on the hook for them, with an assortment of European production companies funding.

Only Lovers Left Alive DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, English Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras in English
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $30.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray ($35.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


For a long time, I was adamant that DVD's quality was good enough, an opinion much of the public still holds. I might still cling to that sentiment had my trusty 5-disc-changing DVD player not broken down in early 2011. As is, exposed almost exclusively to Blu-ray Disc these days, when a DVD is sent for review, it stands out for its shortcomings. Sony's transfers are consistently among the best around, but on a film like this whose visual acumen is so prominent, the limitations become more pronounced. The 1.85:1 picture isn't troubled by any specific issue. It just lacks the clarity, vibrancy and detail that 1080p would give it.

Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is fine on its own merits, but the rock-heavy mix has much less impact than the lossless Blu-rays I'm used to hearing.

Writer-director Jim Jarmusch takes his place in front of a wall of geniuses in the making-of documentary "Travelling at Night." The music video for Yashmine Hamdan's "Hal" extends the song's random performance in the film.


The DVD's extras begin with "Travelling at Night with Jim Jarmusch" (49:22), Lιa Rinaldi's surprisingly long documentary on the film's production. It unfolds entirely with unnarrated fly-on-the-set footage from shoots and rehearsals. It conveys Jarmusch's directing method and the time-consuming, repetitive nature of filmmaking.

A music video for Yashmine Hamdan's "Hal" (4:52) presents the mostly Arabic song in a way not too different than the film does. With its words untranslated, the only meaning one can derive from this performance is in the stage presence of the sparkly tank-topped Lebanese singer.

As if the film wasn't pretentious enough, the deleted scenes reel shows alternate opening and ending with quotes from the 13th century poet Rumi placed over them. Tilda Swinton sits on a throne of books on the Only Lovers Left Alive DVD main menu.

A reel of Deleted and Extended Scenes runs a staggering 26 minutes and 23 seconds. It includes an alternate opening montage, a look at what sunlight can do to vampires, more of Tilda Swinton dancing, Eve revealing to a cabbie she can speak his native tongue, a conversational version of the film's one nude shot, an utterance of the word "vampires" (never heard in the film),
Eve discovering one of Adam's cinematic blind spots, and quotes from the 13th century Middle Eastern poet Rumi that would have opened and closed the film.

The extras conclude with Only Lovers Left Alive's own acclaim-touting US theatrical trailer (2:21). Sony Pictures Classics is one of the best studios when it comes to including original trailers alongside the film.

A "Previews" listing repeats the disc-opening trailers for Magic in the Moonlight, Third Person, For No Good Reason, Jodorowsky's Dune, and The Lunchbox.

The DVD sports a static, silent main menu screen of a German poster image featuring Tilda Swinton among piles of books.

No inserts accompany the silver disc inside the uncut Eco-Box keepcase.

Got blood? Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) are about to in the film's closing shot.


The boredom of centuries of existence is contagious in Only Lovers Left Alive, a creative but utterly unfulfilling drama about vampires. Dulling you with its slow pace and aimless narrative, this offbeat hipster-oriented indie finishes with you feeling like it was mostly a waste of two hours.

The DVD includes 80 minutes of bonus features, although enduring them without an appreciation for the film is definitely something of a challenge.

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch: Down by Law • Dead Man
Dark Shadows • Vampire Academy • Vamps • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse • World War Z
Tom Hiddleston: Midnight in Paris • Thor • Thor: The Dark World • War Horse
Tilda Swinton: The Grand Budapest Hotel • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Anton Yelchin: Fright Night (2011) • Like Crazy • The Beaver • Middle of Nowhere • Star Trek Into Darkness
Mia Wasikowska: That Evening Sun • Lawless • Albert Nobbs • Alice in Wonderland (2010) • The Kids Are All Right
New: The Railway Man • Ping Pong Summer • Fading Gigolo • Muppets Most Wanted • Bears • Winter's Tale

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Reviewed August 20, 2014.

Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Sony Pictures Classics, Faliro House, Le Pacte, Hanway Films, Recorded Picture Company, Pandora Film, Snow Wolf
and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.