Posts Tagged ‘Tilda Swinton’

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What would it be like to live forever? This question must have crossed most people’s minds at some point. In Only Lovers Left Alive, the centuries-old vampires Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) are responding to their immortality in different ways. Although they are lovers, they are keeping things fresh by living apart, she in Tangiers and he in the run-down city of Detroit. Eve is happily reading all the books she can lay her hands on; indeed, so practiced are her reading skills that she is flipping a page every couple of seconds. Adam, on the other hand,  is depressed. Musically skilled, in previous centuries he has given away his music to the likes of Schubert. He has also hung around with Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft. Now, though, he spends all his time at home making what he calls “funeral music”, electronic drones. Adam is losing faith in a world run by the zombies, the name that he and Eve give to humanity. He is at such a low point that he commissions the production of a single wooden bullet, and practices pointing a gun at his heart.

Adam and Eve no longer kill people (or convert them to vampires) in order to obtain blood. In Tangiers Eve obtains her blood supplies from a vampire with connections, who turns out to be the author Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), portrayed here as the author of Shakespeare’s plays. In Detroit, Adam buys his supplies from Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright) at the local hospital.

During a phone conversation Eve discovers how depressed Adam is, and arranges to travel back to Detroit (carefully organising her connecting flights so that she will only be travelling at night). But she has only been back in Detroit a short while when her wayward sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) shows up and throws their lives into turmoil, not least by tucking into their dwindling supply of blood.

Only Lovers Left Alive is not really a horror movie as such (indeed, because vampires typically exhibit fairly human-like qualities I would suggest they are rarely as frightening as zombies, possessed children, and demonic houses); rather, it is a supernatural romance/drama that also includes some amusing dialogue. The relationship between Adam and Eve is nicely played and quite touching, and you don’t need to be a vampire to identify with the problems caused by the unwanted arrival of an awkward family member.

The one aspect of the story that did require some suspension of disbelief was the idea that a man who has lived through the hundred years war and the black death could think that the world is getting worse, to the degree that he is contemplating suicide. Jarmusch draws a parallel between the vampires’ dependence on limited supplies of blood and humanity’s dependence on oil and water (the latter identified as the next resource to be fought over). However, such social commentary is kept to a minimum and it is the couple’s romance that is very much at the heart of the film.

Visually, Only Lovers Left Alive is always interesting to look at. Adam and Eve are tall and wan, and Adam in particular is very much the dandy (at one point Eve blames his depressive tendencies on Byron’s influence). His house, where many of the scenes take place, is like an interesting old junk shop, full of slightly outdated recording equipment, and he has an impressive collection of old guitars. We also get a glimpse of modern Detroit, which of course is in a sorry state. A scene inside the delapidated Michigan concert hall gives us a very real sense of the transitory nature of things.

Anyone seeing this movie in the hope of experiencing a few scares and thrills is likely to be disappointed, but if Byronic characters and gothic atmospherics are your thing then you are in for a treat.

Rating: 8/10

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ImageWes Anderson movies, certainly since The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, have tended to be Marmite affairs: people either love them or hate them. Having said that, I’m kind of just OK with Marmite. I don’t mind it but don’t love it. It’s pretty much the same with Wes Anderson: I haven’t seen all of his films, but those I have I find quite enjoyable. My appreciation stops there, though.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. It has the usual deadpan humour combined with a distinct visual style. There are no end of linear perspective shots: views down corridors, down railway tracks, down roads. Within these landscapes vehicles come into view, go out of view, and faces are zoomed in on. There are also lateral tracking shots – in one instance the camera tracks left simply to move from one person to another at a dinner table. The three timelines depicted in the film are represented by three different aspect ratios – 2.35:1, 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 (thanks to the BFI programme notes for that technical info).

The story is based on the writings of Stefan Zweig. Ralph Fiennes displays a wonderful comic skill playing M. Gustave, the concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, located in Eastern Europe. M. Gustave has a courtly charm that beguiles his guests, male and female, and he makes no bones about the fact that he frequently sleeps with them. One such guest, the elderly Madame D (Tilda Swinton), is so in love with M. Gustave that she has returned for 19 seasons. Following Madame D’s death M. Gustave discovers that she has bequeathed him a valuable painting, ‘Boy with Apple’. However, anticipating trouble from Madame D’s family, led by her vicious son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), M. Gustave removes and hides the painting, replacing it on the wall with a rather different sort of painting – ‘Two Lesbians Masturbating’. Shortly afterwards, it is announced that Madame D’s death was murder, and M. Gustave finds himself framed and arrested. From hereon in much of the film consists of a prison break and extended chase.

Throughout much of this M. Gustave is accompanied by the hotel’s lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). The two of them are an inspired deadpanning comic double act and their interactions are one of the delights of the film. The cast is particularly star-studded, and many of the performers are regulars of previous Anderson films, notably Bill Murray, here playing M. Ivan, the leader of the concierges’ organisation, The Society of the Cross Keys.

The story is told in flashback by Zero as an older man (played by F. Murray Abraham), and these segments top and tail the film. The main action takes place against in 1932 against the backdrop of some sort of fascist uprising in the region. Whether this adds a more serious emotional element to Anderson’s mannered storytelling, or whether it is merely jarring, may be a matter of taste. On first viewing, at least, I felt perhaps it veered a little towards the latter.

Overall, I found The Grand Budapest Hotel to be an amusing diversion, but it didn’t give me the kind of laugh-out-loud experience that I recently had watching Philomena, a story involving real-life heartbreak that nonetheless succeeds in being hugely funny.

Rating: 7/10