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A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (review)

girl_walks_home_alone_at_nightA GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

Written and Directed by Ana Lili Amirpour / Starring Arash Marandi, Sheila Vand and Dominic Rains

The Girl: You’re sad. You don’t remember what you want. You don’t remember wanting. It passed long ago. And nothing ever changes.

As the tagline for A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT reads, it is the first ever “Iranian Vampire Western”, and it may conjure up images of a bleak and uninhabited landscape or bad guys all in black and good guys all in white. The first thing I thought of was the only vampire western I’ve ever seen, Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 cult favourite, NEAR DARK, and there wasn’t much else I could think of. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT bares no resemblance to that film though; instead it draws on Iranian and French New Wave cinema, Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (and basically his early works as well), 1950’s delinquent films and James Dean, then throws it against the backdrop of a desolate town, filmed in black and white and entirely in Farsi. It sounds like a mashup of a bunch of completely unoriginal ideas, which is probably why all over the internet you can find reviews that throw in Tarantino’s name somewhere as a point of reference. Those appropriations would be false though. Ana Lily Amirpour’s new vampire movie simply falls in with the latest trend of original and beautiful vampire films that blow your mind with their bittersweet melancholia.

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Set in the fictional Iranian industrial town of Bad City, we first meet Arash (Arash Marandi) dressed in dark jeans and a T-shirt, evoking the image of James Dean with his retro sports car he had to work 2,191 days to be able to afford. The backdrop is a power plant and an empty street; a child wanders by and a hooker stands lonesome on the corner. The oil pumping machinery is much like the Dean western, GIANT, but the pit of bodies just off the side of the road acts much more topical as a political comment. The story here concerns Arash more than it does its mysterious woman dawning a chador and gliding down streets on a skateboard. But that mysterious woman has a huge role to play in Arash’s story, especially when a known drug dealer (Dominic Rains), who also happens to be Arash’s own father’s drug dealer, steals his car.

Arash soon finds himself captivated by this girl and this leads the characters to two extremely erotic scenes, one with a fake vampire looming over and staring into the eyes of a real vampire, the other, in her bedroom as she listens to the sound of his heart while “Death” by White Lies blares from her record player, proclaiming “yes, this fear’s got a hold on me”. These two scenes are punctuated by beauty from the use of the gorgeous black and white cinematography. Had it been filmed in colour, it just would’t conjure up the same emotions in the viewer. Nor would it be reminiscent of STRANGER THAN PARADISE or DOWN BY LAW, two early, ultra hip Jarmusch influences.

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We never really find out too much about the vampire (Sheila Vand), who bears a resemblance to Uma Thurman in PULP FICTION, which keeps her in the realm of the curious, but then again we never discover much about the characters motivations either. Sure we could surmise that she is attacking the loathsome characters in the film; the one that deals drugs and the one that is an emotional strain. But we can’t ever be sure. The character glides across the screen, just as she does the story; appearing to feed, or perhaps even feel love. The narrative structure of A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is quite clear cut, but it’s the dialogue, or rather, the lack thereof, that allows your eyes to be drawn to each image, to the story that is being shown, rather than told to us. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is another example of a vampire tale with imagination, despite it’s seemingly borrowed elements, it blends them all together to create a stunningly original tale that is haunting right up to it’s final frame, just as it should be.

4 sheep

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