A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is out now and is re­viewed

Wel­come to Bad Town, where young peo­ple are break­ing new ground in the finest fash­ion, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT Di­rected by Ana Lily Amir­pour. Star­ring Arash Marandi, Sheila Vand, Do­minic Rains. Club, IFI, Dublin, The Light House, Dublin, 99 min

There is odd­ness in abun­dance in this sui generis med­i­ta­tion on danger­ous hip­ster­ism from as­sorted un­fa­mil­iar plan­ets. As it has toured the world, Ana Lily Amir­pour’s A Girl Walks

Home Alone at Night has picked up the tag: “that Ira­nian vam­pire movie”.

Even that brief phrase fea­tures in­ac­cu­ra­cies and sim­pli­fi­ca­tions. The film is prob­a­bly an Amer­i­can in­de­pen­dent pic­ture. It cer­tainly seems to be set in a ver­sion of Iran – the dia­logue is all in Farsi, af­ter all – but A

Girl . . . was, in fact, filmed en­tirely in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. That lo­ca­tion seeps into the fic­tional set­ting, which, although dec­o­rated with oil wells, kicks up more re­minders of the bor­der hell in Touch

of Evil than any Ab­bas Kiarostami film.

Is it even a vam­pire pic­ture? Well, the charis­matic, wideeyed Sheila Vand, dressed in a dark chador, does move a lit­tle like var­i­ous counts, but Bram Stoker would de­tect few Tran­syl­va­nian tones in her bear­ing.

We are in Bad Town, a gor­geously dis­tressed lo­cale full of noir hood­lums and pretty bad boys. The film be­gins with a shot of Arash (Arash Marandi), a hor­ti­cul­tural handy­man, dressed in James Dean’s T-shirt and Mar­lon Brando’s jeans.

The poor man, de­spite his per­fume com­mer­cial good looks, is sad­dled with prob­lems worth wor­ry­ing about.

His dad is an ad­dict trapped in un­happy fi­nan­cial bondage to a lo­cal pimp.This is a town stuffed with in­ter­est­ing, ex­otic char­ac­ters: princesses, rich ladies, trou­bled sex work­ers, but none is quite so in­ter­est­ing as “The Girl”.

Vand works con­tem­po­rary hip­ster­ism and tra­di­tional fe­male role mod­els into a por­trayal that will keep cul­tural stud­ies lec­tur­ers in busi­ness for many years to come. She wears train­ers. She has a very chic Jean Se­berg top. She is even seen on a skate­board, which al­lows her to move as smoothly as the brides of Drac­ula.

In truth, Amir­pour ex­hibits more love for high Amer­i­cana than she does for any tra­di­tional hor­ror con­ven­tions. Shot in black and white, the film has the same windswept qual­ity as Peter Bog­danovich’s The Last

Pic­ture Show, but per­haps the best mod­els are the pop-cul­tural fil­ter­ing of Jim Jar­musch.

That direc­tor’s own re­cent vam­pire pic­ture, Only Lovers

Left Alive, was a good deal warmer than Amir­pour’s film. But the drifty, easy plot­ting and the grainy mono­chrome sends us back to Jar­musch joints such as Stranger than

Par­adise and Down by Law. For­get those in­flu­ences. For all the love of vin­tage fash­ion and post rock ’n’ roll fash­ion: this is very much the work of young peo­ple seek­ing to break new ground. What mid­dle-aged male direc­tor would think to shoot an avant garde west­ern in a mid­dleeastern lan­guage?

The courage that youth in­stils is also dis­cernible in the film’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to weave cheeky hu­mour into the sce­nario. When Arash first meets The Girl, he is high on drugs and dressed as Drac­ula.

It’s the sort of broad tex­tual gag you might en­counter in the works of Thomas Pyn­chon. “Are you afraid of me?”

The Girl’s cam­paign of quiet ter­ror is surely some sort of re­ac­tion against two kinds of misog­yny: the re­li­giously in­spired re­straints of Iran and the west­ern vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion typ­i­fied by the vul­gar pimp.

For all that rich­ness, A Girl

Walks Home Alone at Night is most strik­ing for the beauty of its cin­e­matic aes­thetics.

You might ar­gue that it strives too hard for un­dead and undy­ing cool – ex­pect rock stars to ref­er­ence it for years to come – but that naïve pas­sion for recre­ational ex­is­ten­tial­ism is part of the film’s pe­cu­liar charm. “Noth­ing odd will do long.

Tris­tram Shandy will not last,” Dr John­son fa­mously said. He was wrong about that. He wouldn’t have liked A Girl Walked Home Alone at Night ei­ther. He would have been wrong about that too.

Quiet ter­ror

Sheila Vand in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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