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Les Variations Jarmusch

Esther Heboyan

Partie III. Variations sur un genre : le film de vampires / Variations on a genre : the vampire movie

Genre, decay, and Meta-Cinema: Only Lovers Left Alive and the decline of civilization

Vincent Piturro

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In his review of Jim Jarmusch’s 2014 Only Lovers Left Alive, Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly espouses what many critics have said of Jarmusch over the years: “And yet, as much as I dialed into the visual flair and louche vibe, it never quite gets past being an exercise in style over substance”1. Nashawaty also makes a common refrain about the film: “Vampire films work best when they are, on some level, allegorical (for sexual repression, drug addiction, the fear of AIDS). Only Lovers Left Alive nods to a tainted, dwindling human blood supply, but it feels thematically undercooked”2.

Translation: “It was very pretty, but I had no idea what was going on.” This has been an all-too-frequent lament over the career of one of America’s greatest independent filmmakers. But even Nick Pinkerton (a more seasoned film reader than Nashawaty), in his Sight and Sound interview with Jarmusch, says that “In using horror tropes – the zombie, werewolf, or in this case the vampire – filmmakers o...


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