REVIEW: Ana Lily Amirpour’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.”
Ana Lily Amirpour. Remember the name. Whenever “vampire” and “western” cross the same path in a single thought, the name will roll off the tongue that much easier. In the same year that has seen vampires elevated back to the realm of super cool by the venerable Jim Jarmusch in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” comes this quietly unassuming Iranian film, using its shoestring budget to dangle so much craftsmanship and panache it renders Jarmusch’s expertly plotless tale into a delicious digestif. Amirpour’s is the full course meal; love, longing, the female gaze, a wondrous soundtrack that keeps on giving, and the kind of black and white photography you want to take a bite of. Herzogian dabs of Lynch and Jarmusch can’t coverup the display of one woman’s singular, soaring, talents behind the camera. Standing alongside ‘Lovers’ and Tomas Alfredson‘s “Let The Right One In” (2008), “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” helps the adult crowd forget everything they ever wished they never knew about “Twilight” and “True Blood.”
Sheila Vand plays The Girl, very much channeling the spaghetti aura of Clint Eastwood‘s Man With No Name. She loves listening to records (her taste in music is to die for), and following people around at night. She is hunting. A lone wolf looking for prey. Sometimes she walks, sometimes she’s on a skateboard. Arash Marandi plays Arash, the kind of guy who works for six years in order to get the car of his dreams, and takes care of his worthlessly heroin-addicted father (Marshall Manesh), and their cat. Mozhan Marnò plays Atti, a prostitute who works for the typical asshole pimp (Diminic Rains) we’ve been seeing since the days of “Taxi Driver.” These are the main characters who populate the world of Amirpour’s Bad City, a dusty ass crack ghetto suburb in Iran. The story revolves around The Girl, who follows a code of her own to pick her victims. A code that is shaken when she meets Arash.
The scene of The Girl’s first crime (who else but the pimp?) is a thing of cinematic beauty. She is witness to his harassment of Atti and decides to follow him. He, high on drugs and inflated machismo, allows her to enter his house and stand around as he prepares for a night of fucking by listening to techno music and sniffing lines of cocaine. She, ever the silent one, slithers to the background and touches his cymbal to lure him closer. He takes the bate. Edging closer and closer, he starts to caress her face and lips. She tilts her head, opens her mouth, and reveals her truth. It’s one of the best cinematic reveals of the year. He slightly recoils but, high as fuck as he is, lets her take his finger in her mouth. What you imagine might happen next, happens next. Thus Amirpour, with the tremendous help of Sheila Vand’s intoxicating ubiquity in frame, utilizes the pleasures of cinema’s language like a talented linguist who relishes creativity.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” has plenty of hypnotic scenes as the one described above, simultaneously playing with societal notions of gender dynamic and injecting pure visual and aural joy with the help of a bombastic soundtrack and Lyle Vincent‘s sumptuous cinematography. When The Girl meets Arash, dressed as Dracula and coming down from ecstasy, a new layer is effortlessly inserted; romance. Their scenes together feel unfleshed, like the plot and Atti’s role, but the attraction and sizzling chemistry is undeniable. White Lies‘ “Death” and a pair of earrings will tell you as much.
Amirpour’s western take on a traditional horror legend percolates, bubbles, and finally metastasizes into a modern takedown of misogyny. She, one of the many female directors to emerge victorious this year, takes a brilliant stab and twist of the knife into the cliche of the helpless damsel, the innocent victim of the night, the sheltered girl. In the meantime, she tilts a hat to Sergio Leone‘s contribution to cinema and adds more lure into the allure of the vampire mythos. “A Girl a Walks Home Alone At Night” will follow you for an eternity, and while it doesn’t handle plotlessness as well as Jarmusch, it’s the year’s most stylish coming of age fable and the smartest vampire film to come out in ages.
Currently playing in select theatres and VOD.
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