Tuesday, March 04, 2014


I set out this afternoon in the looming grey weather to see Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. Tom Hiddleston! Tilda Swinton! Vampires! What could go wrong?

Someone was sitting between me and the aisle, so I saw the end.

I suppose I could say something about the cinematography and art direction and the way the shots were collected together like a storyboard, like the establishing parts of a graphic novel without the novel. But I'm too overwhelmed with delight to be out of there. It was like an interminable, awful date with a twenty-something white dude who wears a black leather duster and vintage concert t-shirts and has just read Shakespeare and Wilde and Infinite Jest, who first wants to show you his guitar collection with bonus details about how Pete Townshend's rig was modified. Then he pours you a drink and tells you at length about his contemptuous exhaustion with the world because we are all such zombies and we never realise how much we are fucking things up until it is too late oh and also thank all the small gods, his spare time involves way too much wikipedia and xkcd and vinyl message boards and so his agonisingly sophomoric trials-of-existence monologues are fascinatingly larded with Facts about fungi and electricity and Tesla and physics and old 45s and Jesus Christ on a dial please, please just kill me.

I haven't even told you about the mind-numbing nihilism-fetish night-tours of broken-down Detroit where Hiddleston actually has to utter lines like ' ... and now, it's a car park'.

There's a scene late in the movie where Hiddleston and Swinton are standing over the deathbed of John Hurt, who's playing a vampire who really penned the works of Shakespeare (yes. Don't even). Hurt's deathbed is in out the back of a shisha bar in Tangiers, shot like there is tea over the lens, because of fucking course. Anyway Hurt, because there can be no limit to the excruciation, has to say 'What a piece of work is a man!' when he sees The Hiddleston. Jesus wept.

But then they shoot up at Hiddles from Hurt's perspective, with shadows in his eyes and the tea-colours arcing off his cheekbones and his round, broken jasperware eyes and he says, perfectly, softly and crisply and sadly, everything about him suddenly borne aloft of the shitty, excessive, self-satisfied screenplay like crackling ice on a puddle of mud, 'And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?'

It's just about possible that Tom Hiddleston's line-reading from Act 2, Scene 2 is worth the price of admission.

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