Jim Jarmusch, who used to be synonymous with "underground," is also underhanded: His movies, beginning with the proto-hipster "Stranger Than Paradise," have exuded such an air of downtownish cool that when he delivers his emotional sucker punch, your guard is always down. It's a tactic that has served him well, and one he uses to great effect in "Only Lovers Left Alive," a vampire tale whose principals would regard Bella Swan with undisguised disdain.
There are those walking among us (this writer is one) who will cheerfully watch Tilda Swinton do anything, and the ethereal Scots actress is in full phantasmagoric mode as Eve, a blood-savoring vampire -- she prefers a stemmed glass to a throat -- who lives in Morocco. Her lover, Adam (Tom Hiddleston, of "The Avengers," "Thor" and those English-accented Jaguar commercials), is in Detroit, writing rock music and cultivating his disillusion with the race that he and Eve have been observing for 3,000 years ("Have the water wars started yet?" he asks offhandedly. "Or is it still about the oil?")
They communicate via technology old and new, as well as through a millennia-old cosmic bond. But then Eve decides to fly to Adam -- she uses airplanes -- to comfort him in his time of need.
Jarmusch movies almost always suffer in the synopsis: A story about cabdrivers? ("Night on Earth") Forest Whitaker as a samurai? ("Ghost Dog") They're always better than they sound, and the sum better than the parts, which here are pretty outrageous, and always funny: Eve diagnosing Adam's ennui through a catalog of literary references, which include Christopher Marlowe, who's played by John Hurt; Mia Wasikowska as Eve's trashy kid sister, Anton Yelchin as a zombie and Jeffrey Wright as a blood supplier named Dr. Watson. And of course, despite their cultivated lassitude, the best parts of the story are Adam and Eve, in the garden of their undead devotion.
PLOT Ennui-ridden vampires converse, muse, cogitate and conduct their centuries-old love affair.
RATED R (language and brief nudity)
CAST Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska.
PLAYING AT Roslyn Cinemas, Malverne Cinema 4, Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington
BOTTOM LINE Languorous, droll and ultimately affecting.