A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) (Not Rated)
One of the first (if not the very first) Iranian vampire movies, "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" is a staggering work and perfect from the moment it opens to its final frame. The debut feature film from writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour, "A Girl" encompasses its own fictional setting with such veracity that it sucks you into its dark world.
There are many figures seen in the movie, and most of them appear to be unconnected from the next. In the obviously titled Bad City, the first character we see is Arash (Arash Marandi) who appears to have the only nice car in the town, and he's very proud of it. Not one to delve into charity, Arash cites the exact number of days he had to work to pay for his sleek ride.
Arash lives with his father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh) who is a drug addict and in the pocket of the local drug dealer, Saeed (Dominic Rains). It seems like Arash is trying to recreate the aura of James Dean, from the car to the tight white t-shirts and it's this drug dealer who pops that idealistic bubble. Hossein can't pay his debts and Arash has to give up his car for his father, something that makes him so angry he punches a brick wall and breaks his hand.
Then there's Atti (Mozhan Marnò), a prostitute who also has to deal with Saeed and his violent tendencies. She gets the blunt end of Saeed's temper in their interactions.
And lastly, there's the mysterious girl (Sheila Vand). This caped walker cuts an imposing figure even for being so small compared to the rest of the cast. Remaining unnamed for the entire movie, the girl is easily seen as the equalizer to situations, without ever trying to right some sort of ethical wrong. The first person she goes up against in Saeed and here is where we first see the creative genius of Amirpour. Utilizing every single aspect that she can, most notably the sound editing, the suspense for these scenes is actually tangible. It's a very well-paced work, never once trying to rush itself and never trying to push the limits farther than they deserve to be shoved.
Shot in blindingly beautiful black-and-white (one of the only films in the recent years that actually deserves its film style) I can't help but make references to Fellini, simply by the opening scene.
Yet Amirpour crafts her own style, her own genre if that's even possible. There is a large range of emotions portrayed in "A Girl" and each one is hit right on center, something I think any lesser director would have struggled with. You can also make parallels to Tarantino, but I think that Amirpour supersedes both comparisons in this case.
As a main character, Arash is likable and yet the audience longs for the scenes with the girl in them, simply because Vand brings such a curious intensity to the character that we can't help but be drawn to her. Shot mostly at night, "A Girl" is so stylish that begins to feel like its own music, specific and moving yet impossible to define in words.
There is something happening in this movie with commentary on oil, though that is just a facet of a larger picture and never takes away from the emotion of the piece. Most scenes segue into the next with shots of the oil fields and steam billowing from factories. This adds to the deserted and polluted feel of Bad City. It's almost too good to talk about.
Amirpour takes the unthinkably bizarre and makes it feel natural, like a pit in the middle of the city where dead bodies are thrown.
For all the things that "A Girl" is, a vampire movie is the least of them. It never tries to rationalize or further define the parameters of the myths surrounding vampires like "Let the Right One In" did; but it also never lets us forget the humanity of the vampire, with more ease and success than Herzog ever managed *snob alert*.
A rock-n-roll, sad, beautiful, romantic, attractive on every level movie, "A Girl" is by far and above the most original, most satisfying, and most unique film in recent months.
From Arash's more shallow moments to the fervor of the vampire's rage, "A Girl" is chilling in many scenes and so effective at skipping from one high to the next. It's a perfect running time for its tale, and it features a cute cat, so what's not to love?
Seriously though, "A Girl" is a powerful work, incredible to watch, and a tribute that there should be no gender roles in the director's chair of film. Amirpour never preaches feminism and yet makes a feminist work wrapped inside a romance inside a horror movie—all these layers set her apart as an individual director, not as a woman.
"A Girl" is just stupid good. I can't say enough good things about it, so I'm going to stop trying.
Posted by Micah Jones