Seen: Only Lovers Left Alive, by Jim Jarmusch

This film could had been either a tacky camp over-sweet pastry stuffed with purple prose… or it could be what it really is – a dark beautiful tapestry with pieces of wry humour hidden between the threads.

Eve and Adam has known each other for a long, long, time. One white, celebrating life and its expressions. One black, deeply romantic but also despairing of life and of where humanity has gotten itself. One in a melting pot city, a city of the in-between and of both. One in the ruins of crashed expectations. And both, intertwined.

Sounds pretty pretentious, doesn’t it? And still – it isn’t.

Tilda Swinton‘s character, Eve, lives in the old parts of Tangier, in an old house filled with books. She’s best friends and neighbour with Christopher Marlowe, portrayed by John Hurt.

Eve’s husband, Adam (Tom Hiddleston), lives a reclusive life on the outskirts of Detroit, collecting vintage guitars and making music using as analogue equipment as possible. He’s a romantic but also an engineer and scientist at heart, and he’s also bitter and dissatisfied with humankind.

During a Skype call Eve realises that Adam is depressed and she instantly gets on a (night) flight for the States, carrying the essentials only – two suitcases of books…

There’s absolutely not an ounce of action: only the quiet angst and passions of the aged and eternal youth – they are vampires, after all – and a silent discussion of what makes life worth living; yet the film keeps the audience focused on the screen.

And I loved it.

I loved it for its play with archetypes; for its use of, references to, and off-handed comments in areas such as music, literature and science; for the photography, for the way the camera makes love with the spaces these creatures are passing through; for the dual feeling of being very grounded yet transient; for the debauchery and the despair; for the raw animalism and the intellectual flippancy; for the hope and love and beauty; for the way it managed to capture the duality and challenge of being, and of being honest with oneself and one’s ideals. And of course I loved it for its humour.

Jim Jarmusch has pulled of one mean feat – a vampire film that brings back the vampire were it belongs: to the outsiders, the poets, the rebels.

Go see it.

Now, if you excuse me, I’m off watching the fire flicker in the grate while swaying solemnly to the slow beat of Pink Floyd‘s Wish you were here.

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Read: The Exiled Blade, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

The Exiled Blade, the last book in Jon Courtenay Grimwood‘s Assassini trilogy, was published about a year ago, in April 2013. I had it on pre-order, like all of Grimwood’s books, but for reasons previously mentioned didn’t get around to read it until now.

The trilogy is set up to tell the tale of how classical vampires came to be, and how they came to the particular corner of Europe they are associated with in particular, and start when, as told in The Fallen Blade, a nameless boy-creature arrives in Venice. The boy is soon given the name Tycho and is recruited into the Assassini – the secret police, if you so will, of post-Marco Polo Venice – and is soon embroiled in court politics. The story continues in The Outcast Blade.

I was sceptic on the outset. Vampires and the supernatural and fantastical is not high on my list – rather it is an exception when I enjoy such tales.

The two first instalments surprised me – I really did enjoy reading them, and also I felt Grimwood had matured somewhat as an author: I love much of his work but many of the books are a bit to speculative, I feel, and he has had a tendency to repeat imagery and scenes. With the Assassini trilogy he has continued working with an alternate history setting but this time working with the far past rather than with alternate endings of the latest world war, and with good result. At least in the two first instalments.

Sadly I don’t feel it kept up in the last part. Up until The Exiled Blade interest and emotional investment in the main characters drove the story but with this last part he needed to tell a story, not develop characters. The result is a tale that in parts dragged, in parts were so festooned with fantastical deux ex machina turning points that I soon lost belief in the credibility of the story. The main event, in many ways, is when the half-realised vampire-creature that Tycho is are more or less pressed into making a pact with the actual devil, albeit a pre-Christian one – a pact that essentially makes him into a Dracula creature, and placing him in a castle/fortress high up in the Balkan mountains. The price he pays to keep the heir to the Venetian throne, and the heir’s mother, the love of Tyhco’s life, alive is to live forever, but without her.

The trilogy is not badly written. If you enjoy vampire stories and stories of the supernatural and fantastical, and of 15th century Venice and court plot, all in one package – then this is definitely a trilogy I’d recommend. For me, though, it didn’t entirely cut it.

On to other books!