'Only Lovers' helps sophistication return to vampirism

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

For those who puzzled over the “Twilight” hoopla, here are Adam and Eve, the artiest, most sophisticated pair of vampires to hit screens in a long time.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” offers two of the screen's most believable undead, in the pale forms of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. These centuries-old lovers have no sign of sparkling skin, nor do they move with lightning-fast speed. Swinton and Hiddleston play bohemian, worldly vampires in an offbeat, languorous and engrossing tale.

For the literati, there's Christopher Marlowe, also a succubus, played drolly by John Hurt.

Director Jim Jarmusch found corners of Detroit that look charmingly dilapidated and even idyllic under starlight — a perfect urban home for a reclusive vamp.

That Motown resident is Adam (Hiddleston), an underground musician who holes up in a ramshackle Gothic house cluttered with artifacts. The good-natured Ian (Anton Yelchin), the only human Adam likes, fetches him rare vintage guitars. Adam ventures out only for hospital runs where he buys bags of pure O-negative from a doctor (Jeffrey Wright) who asks no questions.

These nightly errands keep Adam from having to attack humans for his survival. Apparently, biting people's necks is out of fashion, deemed irresponsible and unnecessary.

Living across the globe is Adam's literature-loving inamorata Eve (Swinton). Draped in flowing scarves, she haunts the shadowy streets of Tangiers under cover of nightfall, paying regular visits to Marlowe. Her blood comes from Marlowe's black-market supplier.

As much as they need their fluids, the pair long for each other and conduct Skype sessions to stay connected. Eve is a 21st-century techno-philiac, her iPhone always close at hand, while Adam has no interest in modern technology.

When Eve senses that Adam's poetic melancholia may be getting the better of him, she boards a night flight to Detroit.

Reunited, their time together is rapturous and wonderfully cozy. But the sudden appearance of Eve's reckless sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) upsets their lives. Soon, the couple is forced to flee to Tangiers to maintain their shadowy existence.

They grow visibly weak from lack of the vital blood — will they resort to attacking humans?

The cast is terrific. Hiddleston, with his brooding intensity and long dark hair, makes a wonderful boho bloodsucker. Swinton brings a warmth and knowing intelligence to the role. Yelchin is endearing as the eager-to-please Ian, and Wasikowska nails the part of a bratty thrill-seeker.

Hiddleston and Swinton have fabulous chemistry in a hypnotic saga that offers a metaphor for the fragility of humanity.

Claudia Puig writes for USA Today.

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