Only Lovers Left Alive's bloody brilliant

Palace Electric

Deliciously dark and stylishly satirical, this art-house vampire tale from Jim Jarmusch is a languorous feast, his cast in superb form playing world-weary aesthetes who create and love under cover of darkness, their fear not just where the next drop of blood is coming from, but what to do with the state of contemporary culture.

Eve (Tilda Swinton) lives in exotic Tangier and speed-reads fine literature. Her lover Adam (Tom Hiddleston) prefers the trash-cool urban world of Detroit where he writes and records funereal rock music among a collection of pre-digital technology and vintage guitars. He has also a serious case of the sulks, bemoaning today's young people and their music as only a 3000-year-old can.

Fearing he has become suicidal, Eve joins him and they wander the streets of the dying city, play chess and share Adam's supply of high-quality blood. They are unexpectedly joined by Eve's younger ''sister'' Ava (Mia Wasikowska) - an impulsive LA brat looking for some action. She provides much-needed energy and causes some serious mayhem with her reckless behaviour. With music fans on their tail, dead bodies to deal with, and dwindling supplies of blood, the lovers head back to Tangier to see if vampire friend Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) can help.

Jarmusch famously applied his satirical sensibility to film genre with Dead Man (1995), his poetic and irreverent take on the western. Here he uses the genre as a loose frame to play out a love story and mock modern manners. With endless references to decay, disease and the destruction that comes with the cycle of craving and consumption, this is all about the death of culture and the lack of time to contemplate the finer things in life.

''I'm sick of it,'' says Adam, complaining about humans, ''these zombies, what they've done to the world, their fear of their own imaginations.'' Yet Jarmusch is stuck with an underdeveloped narrative, and is confined to making his point with pretentious one-liners: the lovers have nowhere to go and little to do other than hide in the shadows and lament the ways of the past.

Thank goodness, then, for his extraordinary cast and stylish production design. Watching Swinton, Hiddleston, Wasikowska and Hurt each savour the exquisite taste of blood is a breathtaking highlight worth the admission price alone.