“Speaking to Jim Jarmusch, it turns out, isn’t so different from watching one of his films. His work, like his conversation, doesn’t cohere into stories so much as constellations, networks of seemingly isolated ideas which achieve a greater meaning arranged together just so. As a man, he’s immediately identifiable: the Lee Marvin face, that shock of white hair that looks like Andy Warhol touched up with a Tesla coil.
As a director, too, there are recurring elements: a minimalist aesthetic, laconic but lovable characters (often played by musicians), a cool compositional remove that invites humour without sacrificing sincerity. These are films that believe everything is connected; theirs is a cinema of culture in conversation with itself. A young Japanese couple obsessed with Elvis. William Blake reborn into the American west. Instruments that resonate with every note that’s been played on them, the world bound together by cab rides and cups of coffee. “Each one of us is a set of shifting molecules, spinning in ecstasy,” says one character in The Limits of Control. “In the future, worn-out things will be made new again by reconfiguring their molecules.”
Only Lovers Left Alive is a film about the urgency of that recycling process, a snickering genre tale that shacks up with a pair of exhausted paramours desperate to become new yet frustrated that they can’t grow old. Jarmusch has been trying to make the movie for seven years… I’d happily argue Only Lovers Left Alive is Jarmusch’s best film, but it might be more helpful to say it’s his most fluent. The leads are Eve (Swinton) in Tangier, an ancient city forever on the cusp of rebirth, and Adam (Tom Hiddleston), in Detroit, contemporary America’s most famous icon of decay. …
They live apart because they can, because it doesn’t deprive them of time together. “If you live that long, separation for a year might feel like a weekend,” says Jarmusch, his voice a spacey drawl. “It’s not an obligation, it’s an emotional connection.” It’s one so strong that Adam, a natural romantic who sees poetry in science, intimates that his relationship with Eve is an example of Einstein’s theory of entanglement: “When you separate an entwined particle, and you move both parts away from the other, even on opposite ends of the universe if you alter or affect one, the other will be identically altered or affected.” …
It’s hard not to see the theatrically suicidal Adam as Jarmusch in disguise, the director’s neuroses in almost human form. For one thing, both of them love Swinton. “It’s everything about her,” says Jarmusch, eyes lost over my shoulder. “It’s her physicality, the way that she moves … like a vestigial predator, like a wolf.”
There’s certainly a feral element to Eve’s appearance; her character comes off as a Nobel laureate raised by wild animals. For Jarmusch, though, it’s her clear eyes that are most compelling. “She has an ability to prioritise what’s really important in life. Once I was listening to her, I think we were at lunch with Patti Smith, and I thought: ‘Oh boy, if all culture breaks down, I’m following them. They’re my leaders, the women are the way to go.’ One of the great moments in my life,” he continues, “was when we were shooting The Limits of Control, and we finished a take and I said: ‘Oh Tilda, that was so beautiful, will you marry me?” And she replied: ‘Oh darling, we already are.’ I could have died.”
Jim Jarmusch: ‘Women are my leaders’ | Guardian