“They’re All Over Detroit”


Much of Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive feels insulated and self-absorbed. Adam, a vampire played by Tom Hiddleston, is depressed by American cultural stagnation (calling humans “zombies”) and the decay of once-great Detroit. He sits in his home, composing ambient music and waxing nostalgic over guitars. He has a gofer (Anton Yelchin) procuring rare items and gets blood from a doctor (Jeffrey Wright) taken to calling him “Faust.” Adam’s antique obsession, dour mood, pale skin and Robert Smith hairdo mark him as a hipster. Even when his more flamboyant, optimistic wife Eve, played by Tilda Swinton, arrives, it only briefly snaps Adam out of his funk: their night life consists of drive-by sightseeing of decrepit buildings. Jarmusch’s ground-view staging and Yorick Le Saux’ photography easily classifies the film as ruin porn. Even when Eve pontificates on the inevitability of Detroit’s revival (“There’s water here”), the emphasis remains on the Motor City’s dysfunction. They steer clear of the revitalized downtown or even the bohemian sections of the city, wallowing in Adam’s self-pity and the past, until Eve’s ravenous sister Ava arrives to throw their life in chaos (depleting their blood supply and killing Yelchin). Deprived of creature comforts, the lovers leave the country and revert to type; ironically, this makes them come alive, after witnessing a young woman singing in Tangier. Jarmusch, ultimately, posits urban decline and hipsters as the result of self-destructive consumerism, powered by nostalgia.


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