A man stands on a dusty, deserted street. It’s clearly sun bleached albeit being shot in black and white. The man wears shades, effecting him the air of a 1950’s rock idol. He stands looking through a fence. He walks in and back out having procured a cat which he then seems to walk several miles through a ghost like town whilst the credits roll.
We could be in a Jim Jarmusch movie here but no we are very much in A.L.A.’s realm and she has welcomed us into A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.
Making it’s world wide debut at Sundance Festival in 2014 the film has garnered much press and praise especially over the last month prior to it’s release in the UK. The films providence just as interesting as the premise. Director Ana Lily Amirpour was born in Margate, UK to Iranian parents, she moved to California, USA as a youngster and when it came time to make her first feature she did so in her hometown but set it in a fictional Iranian place called Bad City. It is a city filled with track-suit wearing drug dealers, middle-aged women of the night, transexuals who dance with balloons and factories straight out of Eraserhead drone gently in the background.
From the city emerges the devilishly handsome Arash (Arash Marandi) who works hard to be able to afford his ever so stylish corvette. Problems with his junkie father means he looses it to the Die Antwoord looking dealer. Meanwhile The Girl (Sheila Vand) – someone who dances in a basement to dream pop by day and cruises the streets at night in a chador on a skateboard conveniently kills and drinks the drug dealers blood… for she is a vampire. At a party later on on the boy… dressed “ironically” as Dracula meets the girl and the two begin a loving relationship.
Well, the reason I thought I would list all that is because on paper I should hate this film. Not because of the ingredients themselves. Nothing wrong with dream pop, 1950’s throwbacks or some ambient factory hum. But all combined it feels so wan tingly “eccentric” and desperately “cool” that my usual instinct is to rile against it in furious rage.
But A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is possibly the most compelling film I have seen so far this year. As a writer Ana Lily Amirpour has created a story shrouded in mystery but which never feels quite as obtuse as some of David Lynch’s works (and whilst we’re at it there’s certainly echoes of Herzog and the aforementioned Jarmusch in both style and content). Choosing to set it within an Iranian town allows for a smattering of social commentary about the disconnect that some women may feel in the patriarchal society forcing them into a underground culture which celebrates western culture. Or in this case a skateboard, indie music loving vampire. When you read it like that it’s not an over ally subtle metaphor I grant you. Purely on an aesthetic level it further alienates us as an audience for the events to take place in a no-name town in a language most will not understand.
The love story which blossoms between The Girl and Arash almost feels like a silent affair. It’s a relationship of longing stares. Although she could be seeing more as a Renfield-like slave. So much goes un-said in fact that the film could have done with another half an hour.
If all these things have no enticed you to watch A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night that’s my fault. I’m sorry. I should find a better way to express my love of a slow-burning, expressionistic, Lynchian/Herzogian/Jarmuschian (oh and there’s some Tim Burton in there) visual styling, eager to be cooky, sort of vampire fest. The miracle Ana Lily Amirpour has performed is that these things are all true but it is still a enchanting and engaging watch. The photography is superb. The performances note perfect and the whole world of the story is brilliantly realised. This is the kind of film which creates blind devotees. The kind that will watch it endlessly and never apologise for it’s perceived flaws because all said and done I have already become one of them.
I implore you to seek it out wherever you can.
Dir: Ana Lily Amirpour
Scr: Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rains
Prd: Ana Lily Amirpour, Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah
DOP: Lyle Vincent
Run time: 101 mins
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is in cinemas now.