Not the best of times; Not the worst of times
Only Lovers Left Alive Blu-ray Review
Elegant and decadent, Jim Jarmusch’s elusive exploration of a group of ageing vampires wears its languid pace proudly, painting a rich and veritably authentic portrait of individuals whose memories date back a thousand years.With a slight frame upon which to hang its wares, the story takes a distinct second place to establishing a convincing point-of-view for these otherworldly entities. It engulfs you in the very same contemplative near-trance within which they live their all-but eternal lives, tangentially striking the surface of the realm within which the ‘zombies’ exist – whom they regard of as the whole human race, and who seem, to them, destined to consume themselves – only insofar as they need to procure blood.
Tom Hiddleston puts in an admirably restrained performance as a disenchanted vampire who is contemplating the point of existing within a world of such self-destruction but Tilda Swinton overshadows him, remaining utterly compelling as his coldly strong but undeniably in-love partner Eve. Strong ‘human’ support comes from Jeffrey Wright and an almost-unrecognisable Anton Yelchin, whilst Mia Wasikowska and the ever-reliable John Hurt play fellow immortals.Cleverly drip-feeding you hints about the identities of these creatures – who have made their mark on history across the ages – Jarmusch offers up a highly rare insight into immortality; one which vampire movies seldom take the time to craft in a realistic fashion.
Of course this comes at the expense of conventional pacing, with his movie like a piece of classical music that sweeps over you – it’s no coincidence that music plays such an integral part of the feature, with an eclectic, unusual soundtrack that dominates the proceedings – and which cannot be rushed or hurried along. He takes his time, as is perhaps necessary to show what living for an eternity would feel like, and this approach may well turn off some viewers, but if you allow yourself to, you may well get absorbed into the experience.
Only Lovers Left Alive Blu-ray Picture QualityJarmusch’s latest hits UK shores with a Region B-locked Blu-ray release available in both a standard amaray release and a lavish gloss finish Steelbook which features some rather lovely artwork. Both releases sport the same absolutely stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Lensed by French DOP Yorick Le Saux, the Arri Alexa Plus-shot cinematography is often both haunting and surreal, despite the real urban landscapes captured in Detroit as the main setting. The Tangiers footage is more breathtaking and beautiful, but the Detroit footage is really very shocking – as if a whole City has been abandoned, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that they were actually shooting in New Orleans!
Predominately set - and filmed - in real modern-day Detroit, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a post-apocalyptic landscape.
Detail is excellent throughout, which really is saying something when you consider that the film consists of entirely night footage, shot in a realistic, almost natural-lighting fashion (c.f. Locke), albeit with a preference for moody yellowy browns which fuel the gloaming look. Fine object detail is superb, whilst skin textures, hair strands, clothing weaves and background flourishes are all closely observed, offering up crisp lines and rich depth. There are no overt signs of banding or blocking, and – again astoundingly when you consider that it’s bathed in darkness – no obvious crush.
Only Lovers Left Alive Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is similarly exemplary, driven by some absolutely stunning song tracks and frequently diegetically-incorporated pieces of music. Indeed, right from the outset you realise that music dominates this piece, as you are engulfed by it during the extended opening sequence and repeatedly submerged in it throughout.
It’s a superb audio track which provides plenty of welcome ambient sounds, promoting an absorbing environment even during the quieter moments – the hum of Adam’s advanced-tech car alone pervades the driving sequences, and gives them a further future-dystopia feel – and, whilst the film boasts no particularly boisterous scenes in terms of effects, the live performances alone will drive your sound system and put you right there in amidst the crowd.
Two superb live performances stand out amidst the audio content; the second, by Lebanese singer Yasmin Hamdan is both mesmerising and intoxicating.
Frequently celebrating its more dynamic potency, this is a near-perfect, near-reference track which has frequent demo worth. If there’s anything you could slightly quibble about it’s some of the dialogue recording – whilst the spoken words are largely well-observed, a couple of the ADR touches (particularly in the car) don’t sound quite as impressive. Still, it’s a relatively minor and barely perceptible niggle which only just takes this a point away from a perfect 10.
Only Lovers Left Alive Blu-ray Extra ContentA 49-minute video-diary-style Documentary provides the backbone for the extras, following Jarmusch and his crew around Tangier and giving us some considerable insight into not only the production but also the filmmakers' work. There are 26 minutes of Deleted Scenes, unfortunately clustered together in a Play All fashion, which provide some surprising gems, including a few scenes which showcase more of the more traditional vampire traits. I'm surprised they were cut out, because they would have been the most expensive elements in the film (effects-wise) - one reason could be the runtime, but I think they were perhaps cut in order to avoid too many overt "vampirisms".
A series of weighty Interviews provides further background into the production, with over ten minutes spent with each of the three main players, Swinton, Hiddleston and Wasikowska (although arguably her's is much more of a supporting role) talking about their characters, the story, and working with Jarmusch. There's also a series of Trailers for both this and other Jarmusch films, and a 'Music Video' for the Lebanese song, which is actually little more than just the scene from the film, albeit in its unedited format here.
Is Only Lovers Left Alive Blu-ray worth BuyingWhether taken as an exploration of immortality or a reflection of the state of the modern world, Only Lovers Left Alive seeps under your skin in the same way that the recent indie sci-fi flick Under the Skin, did, only providing a far more pleasant experience. Both offer an outsiders' view of the world we live in, casting a critical eye on humanity, but here we also get a love story for the ages, and a rather rare depiction of palpably authentic immortality.
You know when your mind drifts back to something you've experienced years back? Imagine what those memories would be like if you'd lived for a thousand years.
Hitting UK shores with a smart black amaray release or a lavish Steelbook counterpart, Only Lovers Left Alive impresses no matter what flavour you pick up, delivering stunning visuals and superior sound as well as a hefty swathe of extra features to keep fans occupied. And if you are one, this is a must-have purchase. Those intrigued, and prepared to give it the time and consideration, should consider taking a gamble on a blind buy, or at the very least giving it a rental. Recommended.
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