Blu-ray Review Drama

Bloodsucking Blu-ray Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

August 24, 2014Ben MK

  Share on Tumblr  
      Delicious Add to Delicious  

A fang-tastic twist on a familiar genre...

Vampires have been done to death, at least as far as their exploits at the cinema are concerned. But just when you think that movies like Vampire Academy and the Twilight franchise have driven a stake through the myth of the modern succubus, along comes a film like writer/director Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. Hauntingly atmospheric, darkly funny and gothically romantic, it's a modern take on the age-old vampire archetype — or rather, it takes on age-old vampire archetypes living in the modern world — with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs.


The Film Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) are the film's titular lovers, a pair of centuries-old vampires just trying to survive in this mess of a modern age. But doing so involves more than just finding the blood — preferably type O negative — to quench their insatiable thirst, it involves finding ways to make tolerable the slow passage of time, which they spend living an ocean apart from one another: he in a decrepit Detroit, she in the exotic Tangier.

For Adam, that means spending solitary nights surrounded by his collection of classic vinyl records and experimenting with his music — which has made him into something of a rock star in the underground music scene — in the abandoned Detroit mansion where he's taken up hermit-like residency. Occasionally, he's visited by his friend, Ian (Anton Yelchin), who's grown accustomed to Adam's eccentricities — tending to his whims without question by bringing him everything from vintage guitars to a wooden bullet, all for a fee of course — but is otherwise clueless about his status as a creature of the night.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Eve immerses herself in books — from bestsellers to ancient tomes in various languages — stacked virtually from the floor to the ceiling of her Tangier apartment, occasionally venturing outside for a late night rendezvous with her friend, fellow world-weary nightwalker Marlowe (John Hurt), to reminisce about the heady days of their youth and their innumerable contributions to culture and art.

The story sees the long-distance lovers reunited after Eve — prompted by her hubby's grimmer-than-usual lamentations on the current state of society — makes the long trip from Morocco to Michigan, in an attempt to rekindle (ironically) Adam's joie de vivre. But any improvement in his mood is short-lived, as they're soon interrupted by the arrival of Eve's impetuous younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), whose very presence threatens to upset the idyllic lifestyle that Adam and Eve have spent centuries cultivating.

Those who go into the film expecting something akin to a typical Hollywood vampire movie are sure to be disappointed, though, for Jarmusch's twelfth feature film functions more as a contemplative and casually-paced character study — only the characters in question just happen to be vampires. Adam and Eve don't even desire to victimize the human population to sate their bloodthirsty appetite. In point of fact, they're better — more civilized — than that, instead preferring to obtain their plasma from the likes of blood banks and to consume it from goblets, like savoring so much fine wine.

Yet, despite the lack of the usual bloodsucking thrills, the film never really inspires boredom, simply because Hiddleston and Swinton radiate so much elegance and swagger that we, the audience, can't help but be utterly transfixed by their performances.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Only Lovers Left Alive takes a bite out of Blu-ray with a gorgeously textured A/V presentation, rendering the film's eclectic blend of Gothic, Rock 'n' Roll and Middle Eastern influences with vivid detail. From the desolate streets of Detroit to the golden-lit alleyways of Tangier, the hi-def transfer excels at showcasing the haunting beauty of cinematographer Yorick Le Saux's camerawork. Colors are lush, contrast and black levels are strong and shadow detail is excellent, the latter of which is especially important as the film takes place entirely at night. There's also an incredible amount of intrinsic detail present in the image, revealing such things as the pores and fine hairs on the actors' faces, the textures and patterns of Persian rugs and other ornately decorated fabrics, the supple leather grain of Eve's white gloves and the multitude of dials, buttons and wires lining the many pieces of retrofitted audio equipment in Adam's abode.

Audio-wise, the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack maintains the film's moody atmosphere, summoning the surrounds into action when required, such as in the opening scene, where the music encircles the viewer to match the hypnotic rotation of the camera. Otherwise, it keeps things fairly low-key and dialog-driven, save for the film's trippy score (by composer Jozef van Wissem and Jarmusch's own band, Sqürl) and its memorable mix of rockabilly and blues songs.

Special Features Sony's Blu-ray release includes 83 minutes of HD special features, beginning with the 49-minute documentary, Traveling at Night with Jim Jarmusch, a fly-on-the-wall look at the making of the film, allowing viewers to become behind-the-scenes observers of the cast and crew, as they film at night in Tangier. There's also the full 5-minute performance of Yasmine Hamdan's song, "Hal" (which is featured in the film), as well as 26 minutes of Deleted & Extended Scenes (amounting to twenty-four scenes in total). Lastly, there's a 2-minute Theatrical Trailer for the film, which rounds out the disc's special features.

The Bottom Line In some ways, Only Lovers Left Alive is the very antithesis of what we've come to expect from a vampire film. But what it lacks in jugular-biting theatrics it makes up for in spades with moody atmospherics, mesmerizing performances and a wicked sense of humor. On the other hand, Sony's Blu-ray release is exactly what we've come to expect from the studio — an exemplary A/V presentation and a fairly lengthy assortment of extras — making Only Lovers Left Alive one Blu-ray moviegoers will definitely want to sink their teeth into.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

You May Also Like