For a vampire movie set in modern-day England, The Wisdom of Crocodiles is peculiarly bloodless. But then, vampire hunger is more a metaphor than a cue for screaming and sucking in this chilly love story, a philosophical thriller that’s no less intriguing for being murkily theological and ceaselessly artsy. ”The line that separates good and evil cuts through every human heart,” Steven (Jude Law, as intensely pale here as he was magnetically golden in The Talented Mr. Ripley) murmurs to Anna (Elina Lowensohn, previously vampirish in Nadja). And that’s just one of the many quotables Steven spouts to explain his dilemma: He needs nourishment from a woman’s love — but he is doomed to destroy love in the process.
Steven also sustains a Russian-lit-like relationship with a detective on his trail (Topsy-Turvy’s Timothy Spall), a man who takes his Catholicism as portentously as Steven takes his existential crisis. Through all the agony and ecstasy, Chinese-born, English-educated filmmaker Po Chih Leong, working from an epigrammatic script by Paul Hoffman, sustains a luxury-loving interest in the play of light on texture: Fountain pens have rarely looked more sensuous, nor vampires more like aesthetes who are never too blood-starved to appreciate fine craftsmanship. B+