Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) – Deathless Capital

Jim Jarmusch is one of those directors who attract a lot of critical attention despite few critics being fans of their work. You can always identify these directors from the way that reviews of their work often include sentences like ‘a return to form’ or ‘his best film since x’ where x stands for some previously well-received but not necessarily successful film.

Exemplified by the likes of Woody Allen, Tim Burton, and Spike Lee, this type of director invariably has a strong and immediately identifiable vision that seldom seems to translate into great films. We all know what we think of when we talk about the films of Woody Allen and Tim Burton but pointing to a really good Woody Allen or Tim Burton film is quite a lot harder than you’d think given the way that these directors have been allowed to pursue and perfect their cinematic visions. Critics like the idea of this type of director as perfecting a vision is what directors are supposed to do and yet the ability to articulate and explore a personal vision is no guarantee that you will produce interesting films. Some people just have boring visions.

Jarmusch’s vision is as singular as it is identifiable in that many of his films feel like attempts to produce American genre film using the themes and techniques of European art house. For example, 1995’s Dead Man is an ironic deconstruction of the western that dwells on feelings of cultural isolation while the more recent The Limits of Control strips the espionage thriller down to its component parts resulting in a film about beautifully-dressed people wandering around exotic locations in response to some inarticulate conspiracy. Only Lovers Left Alive is neither as minimalist as Limits of Control nor as tongue-in-cheek as Dead Man but it is excellent and precisely what you would expect from a Jim Jarmusch vampire movie.

 

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REVIEW: Stake Land (2010)

THE ZONE has my review of Jim Mickle’s post-apocalyptic vampire movie Stake Land.

Between Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976) there are no shortage of works that use vampires as a means of engaging with such existentialist themes as loneliness, alienation and self-loathing. Indeed, the rather individualistic idea that people out there are somehow less alive and therefore different to us also features in zombie films like Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland (2009). Beating a critically acclaimed path to this already well-frequented watering hole is Stake Land, a film that combines the post-apocalyptic seriousness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) with the post-apocalyptic silliness of Kevin Costner’s The Postman (1997) with all the problems this entails:

Though never all that original or overflowing with important things to say, Stake Land could have been an interesting addition to the tradition that uses elements of art house cinema to revitalise tired old horror tropes. Similarly, it could have been a harmless action movie in which a stone-cold badass leads a group of people through a vampire-infested post-apocalyptic landscape. However, by attempting to be both things at once, Stake Land succeeds at being neither. This is a slow, ponderous, underpowered and ludicrously pompous film that comes nowhere close to adding up to the sum of its parts.

Disappointing to say the least.