Seeing movies at TIFF, you look for different things than you would when you're just going to the multiplex, and it can be tricky to reconcile a movie that pushes some really interesting buttons but doesn't care about hitting any of the notes you're used to a movie hitting. Entertainment is good enough for me, most of the time. Throw jokes and explosions at me for 2 hours and I'll leave happy. That's not to say there isn't an art to those elements. It has to be funny. It has to be well-shot. A movie like The Avengers can leave me fully satisfied without making me think.
Part of the reason Only Lovers Left Alive is so good is that it's very funny, but what I really enjoyed about it is the way it makes a beautiful metaphor about giving your life for art, and the plot device used to get this across... is vampires.
Vampires, played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, who have absurdly good taste in music and books. The soundtrack of the film, both the song selections and the original score, are incredible, and blend with the imagery in a way that hypnotically pulls you in pretty much from the first sequence. I felt cool every time I recognized a book, or a reference, or a photo, and when all the elements of the film came together, I felt smart and hip and with it.
I felt that the pacing dragged a bit at times, and I'm not sure if that's a reflection of a film in need of tighter editing or me just being a bit ADD thanks to too many blockbusters. What I can say is that Only Lovers Left Alive has some great laughs, incredible music, and explores some interesting thematic material without beating you over the head with it. I highly recommend it, and insist that you listen to the soundtrack. The original music is the best rock score since 28 Days Later.
Something interesting I've realized looking at my film choices and how I've been responding to the films I've seen so far suggests an undercurrent of really giving a damn about the music. I'll extrapolate on this more in later reviews.