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‘Only Lovers Left Alive’: Jim Jarmusch’s vampires drink up culture

Tom HiddlestTildSwintas vampires.  |  SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires. | SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

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Eve Tilda Swinton

Adam Tom Hiddleston

Ava Mia Wasikowska

Ian Anton Yelchin

Sony Pictures Classics presents a film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Running time: 123 minutes. Rated R (for language and brief nudity). Opens Friday at Landmark Century Centre and Evanston CineArts 6.

Updated: May 19, 2014 1:03PM

Jim Jarmusch stocks his latest low-key indie with more than his usual characters in low-velocity drift. The Akron-born auteur infuses the title couple of “Only Lovers Left Alive” with his taste for culture, if not cuisine.

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) favor Type O-negative blood. They wear big sunglasses at night just like Jarmusch. Lovers for centuries, they must book night flights between Detroit, where Adam makes downer drone music identical to Jarmusch’s, and Tangier, where Eve reads voraciously with her doddering pal Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt).

“Vampire” is not in their vocabulary. “Zombies” is Adam’s ironic slur for all the non-vampires out there polluting the world’s blood supply and mother nature’s other bodily fluids. “This is the bloody 21st century!” is one waggish line. Water wars are coming after the oil wars.

Jarmusch borrows from short humor pieces — extracts from the diaries of Adam and Eve — that Mark Twain wrote between 1893 and 1905. “The new creature names everything that comes along,” Adam complains about his mate. Their namesakes in the film do indeed know the Latin names of every living thing they see.

The slight plot: Eve comes to cheer up Adam. Then her uninvited little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) arrives from L.A. “You drank Ian!” complains Adam when he finds his bloodless factotum (Anton Yelchin) the morning after. With passports bearing the names of James Joyce characters, Eve brings Adam back to Tangiers.

No vampire hunters. No fleeing from daybreak. Just a lifestyle interlude with extraordinarily cultivated lovers who drop the names of too many historical celebrities. The mise-en-scene itemizes vintage guitars, vinyl oldies, psychoactive toadstools and the inventor Nicola Tesla. All dear to Jarmusch.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” detours from the travel narratives of Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Dead Man,” “Broken Flowers” and “The Limits of Control.” Adam and Eve traverse eras. Entwining their limbs in bed, they muse on Einstein’s theory of entanglement and “spooky action at a distance.”

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