Byzantium has both the luck and misfortune of being the first of two indie vampire films this year. The other, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, carries with it a much more enticing cast and distinct director, but I feel sympathetic to Neil Jordan’s vampiric effort. Director of films like Ondine, The Crying Game, and (yes) Interview with the Vampire, he’s also been running Showtime’s The Borgias since 2011, so he’s had his hands quite full recently. The latest international trailer for Byzantium assures us that he hasn’t been slacking in devotion to his work, either.
Jordan’s films share a common fantasy-rooted sensuality, artistically appreciable even at the superficial level. He gets points for paving the ground for the most homoerotic chemistry Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are likely display onscreen ever. His blood-lusting nymphs this time around are Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton, both of which are coming off less-than-enchanting fantasy blockbusters The Host and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, respectively.
It’s both commercially and critically unlikely that Byzantium will be a return to good graces for either of them, since Jordan seems to be melding present teen-vampire desires with historical era costume drama. Whether it will land on the hip or dull end of the spectrum remains to be seen, but what we don’t have to wait to see is the typically gorgeous compositions of cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, who worked with Steve McQueen on Hunger, Shame, and the forthcoming Twelve Years a Slave, as well as working on recent hit The Place Beyond the Pines.
You can expect, or at least hope, the film to have its champions. Alex was particularly fond of Jordan’s last film, Ondine, back in 2010, even if he admitted the script wasn’t quite the strong point. If we can continue to rely on Jordan’s imagery, that may be enough to earn him some new generation appreciation. I admit, though, I have ulterior motives. I really want to see Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which he was attached to write and direct previously, in the hands of a stylistically competent director, and not Ron Howard. Byzantium enters limited release domestically on June 28th. Take a look at the trailer here, and then come back for the comments conversation!