Given that languid cool is the lifeblood of Jim Jarmusch's oeuvre, it makes sense that he's finally gravitated to the vampire genre. In Only Lovers Left Alive, the iconoclastic director brings both absurdity and sensuality to the undead, using Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston's otherworldliness to tap into a rich vein of sardonic humor. For these two immortal creatures, unending life causes complacency—after centuries of existence, it seems there's nothing new on earth. As the film opens, Hiddleston's despondent Adam is holed up in the husk of Detroit, amassing vintage guitars and recording hypnotic tracks. When Swinton's magisterial yet matronly Eve jets in from Morocco, Adam shows her the tragic sights of the Motor City's ruins, including the Michigan Building's once-glorious theater that's now a parking garage. He has no appetite, though, for the anarchy her troublemaking sister (Mia Wasikowska) visits on their dingy Eden, drawing attention by treating unwitting humans like delectable pieces of meat. While the film is laced with mordant wit—the blood popsicles have already become legendary—there's also an affecting subtext: Jarmusch seems to be using genre tropes to explore his own concerns about maintaining his creative drive as he enters his 60s. Just as Adam learns that the world contains undiscovered wonders, one of cinema's most idiosyncratic voices confirms, with droll eloquence, that he still has much to say.
Critic's Grade: A
SEE IT: Only Lovers Left Alive is rated R. It opens Friday at Fox Tower.