Only Lovers Left Alive: A Beginner’s Guide to Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film

Jim Jarmusch once said in his 5 rules of film-making, in Moviemaker, 2004 “authenticity is invaluable, originality is non-existent”. This applies to all art forms including, at the lower end of the scale, writing blogs.

Only Lovers Left Alive is his new film and it’s attracting attention because there are some serious Vampire fans out there. I like Jim Jarmusch films from Down by Law (1986) to Broken Flowers (2005). This new film is one of my favourites.

Only Lovers is humorous and tender. Yes vampires, but these vampires celebrate the otherness of life, they lead independent life styles and spurn the spotlight for a quiet life of creativity and pleasure.

What if Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve(Tilda Swinton) had survived the long centuries of Man as vampires, but they used the expanse of time to become all knowing geniuses? In fact time is not as important a dimension to them as space and entanglement. One is a musician who invisibly writes the music that has changed the world, giving it to humans or ‘Zombies’ in small gifts across the centuries. The other is a prolific reader, understands all languages, is a philosopher of all of nature and absorbs and loves the beauty of life.

Here is my brief ABC of Only Lover’s Left Alive and the trailer…I stopped at ‘D’ so as not to spoil the film, but you get the idea.

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All Is Lost

Lots of press on this now…but really. It could have been any actor. RR does a good job of being Robert Redford though.

Bruegel on Film: framing everyday experience by Joseph Byron Smith


by Joseph Byron Smith

Joseph wrote this article to contribute to the Light Travels site so thanks to him for contributing!

In Jem Cohen‘s recent film MUSEUM HOURS, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum is at the centre of the action. And lead character, Johann (Bobby Sommer), stewards the Museum. The other central figure in this film’s quiet exploration of everyday life is the 16th Century painter Pieter Bruegel. What was interesting for me was that the film draws comparisons – some slight, some overly heavy – between itself, filmmaking (or observation and composition), and Bruegel’s work.  

Bruegel has cropped up in a number of other films; notably The Mill and The Cross, William Raban’s Thames Film and Tarkovsky’s Solaris. After seeing Museum Hours I decided to re-watch the sequence from Solaris in which Bruegel’s The Hunters in The Snow (1565) features heavily. I found that not only were the paintings shot in a very similar way in both films but they also shared the similar theme of  everyday human experience. Bruegel’s paintings are detailed and animated compositions, somewhat free of determined foci (as we are told in Museum Hours’ most curiously didactic scene) and depict often busy lively human interaction.

The detailed and free composition of everyday life are reflected in director Jem Cohen and Cinematographer Peter Roehsler’s narrative. Bruegel’s work is also visually compared to the film’s own observational style. In The Peasant Dance (c. 1569) we’re shown a small detail in the right hand corner of the painting – an egg, a stone, and a broken horseshoe; this is followed by three shots of discarded objects littering a street in Vienna. The decision on Bruegel’s part to include this little collection of found objects clearly resonates with the film’s own interest in observing forgotten detail and composing its own reality. As Johann recites the objects, it draws a parallel with minute and discarded fragments that are integral (and often ignored, unseen) in our shared human spaces.

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