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
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.
Sheila Vand in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night