peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2014 05 01 OnlyLoversLeftAlive

Only Lovers Left Alive

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I don't think I've ever seen a Jarmusch at a cinema. (Ghost Dog is the only possible exception that comes to mind, but history does not record it.) I trekked up to Landmark at 2828 Clark, which must be near the uni in Lincoln Park. It's a classic 1980s-or-so US shopping centre: hollow, ramp on the edge (just like the Guggenheim!), about eight (half-)floors, an exposed lift. The cinema takes up something like the top three floors and is easy to miss. The theatre itself was nondescript.

On the other hand the movie was great. It dragged at times, which I think was entirely intentional, and fired up every time Tilda Swinton was in the frame. I haven't been that partial to her since the late 1990s for long-forgotten reasons; here she is perfect. Be patient and get into that hipster groove. This is Jarmusch exploring post-financial-fatality Detroit, just as he keenly observed New Orleans in Down by Law. I was initially worried that the row of wisecracking blokes who plonked next to me might talk the whole time, but (perversely?) they fell silent after the shorts. Colour me weirded out.

A. O. Scott at the New York Times.

Later I plonked $10 for the soundtrack off iTunes. It's better with visual accompaniment, or after ten or more listens. One of the high points is the exotic singing of Yasmine Hamdan from Lebanon, supposedly in Tangiers, which could only be classified as world; it made me wonder where Peter Gabriel was in all this. Actually it made me think of two things: David Lynch doing (in essence) a film clip for This Mortal Coil's cover of Song to the Siren in Lost Highway, which I rate as one of the most cinematic things he ever did, and the indescribably transcendent sufi music that opens The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Jarmusch's effort is not as good as these, but his instincts are sound.