Jarmusch is in the Sundance Spotlight with ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ | ParkRecord.com

Jarmusch is in the Sundance Spotlight with ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

The fact that a new film by American independent cinema icon Jim Jarmusch is screening in the Spotlight category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is certainly cause for much joy among the cognoscenti who have followed his every move since his "Stranger in Paradise" received a Special Jury prize at the Festival back in 1985.

Having premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival last May, "Only Lovers Left Alive" is, in the filmmaker’s words, "an unconventional love story between a man and a woman, Adam and Eve. These two lovers are archetypal outsiders, classic bohemians, extremely intelligent and sophisticated—yet still in full possession of their animal instincts."

Did I mention it was a May-September relationship? Eve (Tilda Swinton), an obvious Cougar, has been around 3,000 years or so while Adam (Tom Hiddleston) only for only about 500.

"They have traveled the world and experienced many remarkable things," Jarmusch adds, "always inhabiting the shadowed margins of society. And, like their own love story, their particular perspective on human history spans centuries—because they happen to be vampires."

As they say, however, this isn’t your father’s vampire movie. "For our film, the vampire is a resonant metaphor—a way to frame the deeper intentions of the story. This is a love story, but also the story of two exceptional outsiders who, given their unusual circumstances, have a vast overview of human and natural history.

"Adam and Eve are themselves metaphors for the present state of human life—they are fragile and endangered, susceptible to natural forces, and to the shortsighted behavior of those in power."

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To Jarmusch, who never met a film genre he couldn’t tweak, there is always a back-story and a moral center to his work. And his range has always been remarkable.

From his prison comedy-crime-drama "Down Law" featuring Tom Waits , John Lurie , and Roberto Benigni to his post-modern western "Dead Man" with Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, and Crispin Glover and on to his rock-doc "Year of the Horse" with Neil Young and Crazy Horse and "Broken Flowers" with Bill Murray , Jessica Lange , and Sharon Stone , Jim Jarmusch, the poster child for "Idiosyncratic," has refused to repeat himself.

"Set in the very distinct cities of Detroit and Tangier, and taking place almost entirely at night, Adam and Eve must have human blood to survive." Did I mention the classic Jarmusch predilection to use place and mood as characters?

"But they now live in the world of the 21st century where biting the neck of a stranger would be reckless and regressive — for survival, they must be certain the blood that sustains them is pure and free of disease or contamination." Ah, there’s the rub!

"It is the lovers who last the longest, who hold the most magical cards, who can shimmy through the gnarliest cracks and come up laughing," says Swinton of her character Eve’s quest for survival with Adam. "It is the capacity to love that dies latest in a spirit. It is our capacity to love that we can rely upon right up until the final, rustiest wire — and beyond."

"Only Lovers Left Alive" contains the entire Jarmusch skill-set: perfect casting, sexuality, gorgeous cinematography, spellbinding music, off-center humor, drive-bys of the highest and lowest charkas, and reflections upon "art, science, memory, and the mysteries of everlasting love." And not only that, it never mentions the word "vampire," even once.

Jim Jarmusch’s "Only Lovers Left Alive" is one of the Spotlight films of the Sundance Film Festival. It will screen on Friday, Jan. 24, at the Broadway Centre Cinema 6, 9 p.m., Salt Lake City.

Saturday, Jan. 25, 8:45 p.m., Egyptian Theatre, Park City.

For more information, visit http://www.sundance.org/festival.