Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: A Persian Vampire Stalks Bad City
vampire wears a chador rather than a cape. She is clearly not an Anne Rice kind
of vampire, but you will still find plenty of vice in Bad City, where she
stalks her victims. Ana Lily Amirpour finally delivers the Iranian existential
rock & roll vampire western the world has been waiting for with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
dialogue is Persian, but it was shot in a California boom-and-bust oil town that
easily passes for a lawless provincial corner of Iran. Although not explicitly
political, there is no way the regime would ever cotton to a depiction of Iranian
society rife with prostitutes, pimps, pushers, and junkies (frankly, they are just
no fun whatsoever). Of course, this seedy environment makes a perfect hunting
ground for “the Girl,” who prowls through Bad City’s dark streets late at night
on her skate board.
an old school E.C. Comics blood-sucker, the Girl generally bites those who have
it coming, such as “the Pimp,” who has been hassling “the Persian James Dean”
over his junkie father’s debts. Or at least he had been. Yet, the Girl somehow
develops a friendship with “the Prostitute” despite their very different temperaments.
However, it is her halting mutual attraction to the Persian James Dean that
really challenges her choice of undead lifestyle.
AGWHAAN sounds absolutely
crazy on paper and indeed in many ways it is, but it is an art film
through-and-through rather than a cult midnight movie. Amirpour’s pacing is
slow and deliberate, in a seductive kind of way. If audiences are not careful, Bad
City will anesthetize them. Fortunately, the driving alt rock-rockabilly
soundtrack supplies plenty of aural caffeine (this is a case where a soundtrack
album could easily out-perform the source film).
viewers should stick with AGWHAAN,
because it is a truly unique cinematic experience, starting with Lyle Vincent’s
gobsmackingly arresting black-and-white cinematography. Arguably, the film is stylistically
most closely akin to the work of Bruce Weber (best known for directing Calvin
Klein commercials and the Chet Baker doc Let’s Get Lost).
AGWHAAN is the sort of
film that washes over you, yet it still heralds the arrival of a major star in
Sheila Vand. As the Girl, she gives a quiet but deeply expressive performance.
Somehow she is able to look exquisitely vulnerable and eerily sinister at the
same time, which is quite a trick. Likewise, Mozhan Marnò defies all clichés with
her sensitive work as the prostitute.
There is something wonderfully subversive about
a delicate looking lady vampire wreaking havoc on Iran’s low life men. Who
wouldn’t love to see her take the bite to the oppressive theocrats in a sequel?
A rich feast for eyes and ears, it is completely unlike any other vampire movie
you have previously seen. Highly recommended for fans of ambitious genre film
and Persian cinema, A Girl Walks Home
Alone at Night opens this Friday (11/21) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Persian Cinema, Vampire films