Jim Jarmusch’s sublime meditation on the vampire myth arrives on Blu-ray August 19. Only Lovers Left Alive unites Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as centuries-old lovers, Adam and Eve, who feast on the finest art, literature, music, and, naturally, blood. But Jarmusch’s movie is hardly a traditional tale of the undead. As our own Judy Berman wrote of the film:
Only Lovers Left Alive is Jim Jarmusch’s vampire movie, sure. But it’s also a 61-year-old cult filmmaker and renowned aesthete’s lament over how little time we have on Earth, and how much of it we spend fretting about things that would seem inconsequential to a couple of decadent dreamers who’ve lived long enough to anticipate history’s curves and twists. What is actually worth devoting millennia to? Not politics or money (although they have no shortage of that) or even, seemingly, sex. Art, of course, says Jarmusch. And love, too.
As such, Only Lovers Left Alive’s decadent atmosphere boasts stunning set pieces and elegant fashions — a narcotic haze of Jarmusch-style culture and cool.
Gothic perfumery Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has tapped into the dark romanticism, sumptuous palette, and gritty corners of Adam and Eve’s world with their new line of fragrances. As music is crucial to Jarmusch’s work, BPAL has also designed a line of scents inspired by the movie’s soundtrack.
To complement this olfactory homage and celebrate the release of Jarmusch’s movie, we’re looking back at the most fashionable vampires in pop culture.
David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve exude sophisticated cool in Tony Scott’s The Hunger. All the billowing drapes, smoke machines, and neon sheen would dwarf other actors, but the couple cuts a striking pair in the 1983 film. Dressed in their finest leather at an underground goth club and luxuriating in the most fashionable suits in their posh New York City townhouse, Bowie and Deneuve’s vampy couple are stunning wherever they go. Internationally known makeup artist Antony Clavet, whose work has appeared in Vogue Italia, helped define Deneuve’s high-fashion look.
Grace Jones’ cutting-edge style has always been at the forefront of her film and music projects. In 1986’s Vamp, Jones’ metal fashion pieces, Kabuki-style makeup, and elaborate body painting (by pop artist Keith Haring) are the height of the movie.
The Lost Boys
Director Joel Schumacher was influenced by the “long overcoats and blown and moussed hair of Duran Duran spinoff band Arcadia and ‘European fashion magazines, especially German [ones],’” when developing the visual tone and fashions of the 1987 film The Lost Boys. Some of the clothes haven’t stood the test of time, but there’s a thread of 1950’s leather-clad teen rebel and Stevie Nicks gypsy vogue (at least where Jami Gertz’s Star is concerned) that is timeless.
The films of Jean Rollin
“A vampire is like an animal, a predator — wild, emotional, naive, primitive, sensual, not too concerned with logic, driven by emotions, but also very aesthetic and beautiful, and these are terms also often used when my films are being described,” erotic-horror auteur Jean Rollin once said. Rollin’s sapphic vampires — aristocratic femme fatales, European schoolgirls, and ghostly decadents — are a combination of porno chic starlet and wide-eyed innocent, reflected in their fashions.
Kiss of the Damned
Xan Cassavetes brings the high-fashion world to her expressionist mood piece Kiss of the Damned through her elite cast of French model-actress vamps. Evoking the flowing fashions of 1970’s horror tales with a brooding modern twist, Kiss of the Damned reminds us that vampires are always in style.
Daughters of Darkness
Daughters of Darkness straddles the line of high gothic glamor and ‘70s sleaze, centered on a world-weary countless (Delphine Seyrig) locked away in a seaside hotel. Draped in ruby silks, glittering sequins, and not much else, star Seyrig brings a feline sensuality to her character — whose look is also a throwback to the vampy femmes of the ‘30s like Marlene Dietrich.
Even if you have no idea what the hell is happening on True Blood these days, all hail the best-dressed cast — particularly Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), Sophie (Evan Rachel Wood), and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten).
Another Euro sleaze film with art house pretensions, Jess Franco’s hypnotic 1971 film Vampyros Lesbos starred the director’s muse Soledad Miranda as a vampire vixen out for blood (and women). Thigh-skimming skirts and bold prints reference the movie’s psychedelic vibe (and soundtrack), while Miranda’s barely-there wardrobe remains faithful to Franco’s erotic oeuvre.
Blood for Dracula
Any Andy Warhol-produced film boasting the good looks of Joe Dallesandro and Udo Kier doesn’t need much to make it stylish. We can forgive the over-the-top performances and absurd dialogue thanks to Kier’s glinting gaze and well-fitted suits — a subtle blend of period costume and ’70s chic.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
In his lavish adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, director Francis Ford Coppola wanted to spend the majority of his budget on the costuming as he considered his actors the “jewel” of his production. He worked with renowned designer Eiko Ishioka who brought an Eastern exoticism to the gowns and suits worn by cast — especially the vampire noble, played by Gary Oldman.