Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Song of the day

"I Can't Hardly Stand It", by The Cramps.

You really should go to see "Only Lovers Left Alive", the new Jim Jarmusch film, while you have the chance. His films never stay on for long, and the last one, "The Limits of Control", was only screened in Canberra as part of the "Blink and You'll Miss It" series at the ARC, over summer, and on dates when we were interstate. (Which was a shame, because it was unusual for a Jarmusch film in being shot largely in broad daylight, and I would much rather have seen it as intended, on the big screen, than as I ended up seeing it, at home on the telly.)

"Only Lovers Left Alive", on the other hand, is of necessity filmed entirely at night, or in darkened interiors. This is because it is a vampire film, a genre of which I have seen precisely one film: this one. This makes me, of course, an expert. Well, it doesn't, but that's okay because this is not really a vampire film at all. It is, rather, a very sweet story -- a very sweet story that just happens to be about vampires. It is also a very funny film. It looks fantastic, as well, particularly the scenes shot outside, at night, in the streets of Tangier and Detroit. (Was that really Jack White's house?)

The male vampire lead, played by Tom Hiddleston, is a collector of vintage stuff, especially stuff relating to music, and the film might be taken at one level to be a lament for things having been better in the "old days". (So, it probably really was Jack White's house, then.) This includes listening to music on seven-inch, forty-five-revolutions-per-minute vinyl discs. It also includes preferring the obscure original to the better-known cover version. (And haven't we all done that?)

In this case, though, my vote is for the cover version. Actually, I didn't even know until watching this movie that "Can't Hardly Stand It" was a Charlie Feathers song (thus revealing that I don't watch Tarantino movies). And, perfectly in keeping with the tone of the movie as the Feathers recording is, I can only hear it through the prism of The Cramps, whose version I know better than I know my own name, and who probably themselves knew a thing or two about vampire movies. Plus, no band was more retro in the early eighties than The Cramps, which makes Jarmusch's choice of this particular song, for me at least, close to perfect: it posits that one person's retro is another person's modern travesty. Either that or he just happened to have a copy of the record lying around.