A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is unlike any Iranian film you‘ve ever seen. At first, you wonder what bizarre cosmic alignment has allowed this artfully constructed, but distinctly subversive picture to be made. I mean it’s not exactly something you’d expect to pass the censors in that country. As a matter of fact, the production did NOT originate in Iran but rather the U.S., specifically California. Yet the dialogue is in Farsi and features a cast and crew made up of the extensive Iranian expatriate community in the Los Angeles area.

The setting is Iran in the fictional town of Bad City. With a name like that, I suppose one can debate the allegorical overtones. With its arid landscape broken up by oil fields, it a desolate place. It is a world populated by pimps and addicts. Ah but it is the romantics that are the heroes.  Arash (Arash Marandi) drives a’57 Thunderbird and lives with his father. With his white t-shirt, jeans, tousled hair and brooding intensity, the guy suggests James Dean. Also living in the town is a woman known simply as The Girl (Sheila Vand). She is a mysterious young lady and only goes out when it gets dark – sort of a vigilante out for justice. At home she listens to new wave music and decorates her bedroom with a mirrored ball suspended from the ceiling. Look closely and you’ll notice posters of Michael Jackson, Madonna and the Bee Gees on the walls. In this environment The Girl looks like any other of her age, but when she slips on her chador and goes out at night, she has a much more eerie presence.

The eclectic indie rock soundtrack is an important part of the mood. It plays throughout the entire story. An Ennio Morricone-like score is courtesy of the Portland band Federale. The group provides selections that wouldn‘t sound out of place in a Sergio Leone movie. Underground Iranian bands like Kiosk and Radio Tehran are included as well alongside White Lies, a UK band.  Their 2008 synthpop song “Death” is used to underscore a tender kiss in one hypnotic scene.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a cinematic blending of influences as disparate as spaghetti westerns, vampire flicks, graphic novels and feminist ideology. At times the production reminded me of an earlier release this year, Only Lovers Left Alive. Indeed Jim Jarmusch is clearly an idol of director Ana Lily Amirpour, but so is David Lynch with his nonsensical narratives. The bare bones plot and black and white cinematography support the comparison. Occasionally the creation comes across as a bit of an appropriation. However Amirpour melds the inspirations in a way that cherishes them while creating something new. The first-generation Iranian grew up in Bakersfield, California where most of this was shot. The formula is equally shaped by her ancestral background as it is by her studies at UCLA film school. Her unique point of view signals the arrival of an exciting new talent to watch. Granted the plot can just seem weird without a clear purpose. It doesn’t always makes sense, but then what feminist Iranian vampire western does anyway?

11-23-14

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20 Responses to “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”

  1. It’s very, very subversive, as you mentioned. it really sits with you days after you’ve seen it. much deeper than you think. and i love that it doesn’t belong to any one culture, but of course it is Iranian in origin but it crosses so many barriers.

  2. This sounds amazing!

  3. Quite a different Vampire movie. Eerie, upbeat, calm, quiet and very good. We only deal with 1 vampire throughout the film, but that was ok. I liked it. 3 1/2 stars

  4. An Iranian vampire movie?! Sounds fascinating. The genre mashing/blending of cinematic influences you talk about sounds right up my alley. I think I have a screener link for this movie around somewhere, so I’ll have to fish it out.

  5. It’s not Iranian. It’s made in the U.S and produced by Eli Wood, who’s about as North American and they come. Looks like a good film though but all the cast appear to be Iranian exile offspring.

  6. They had a special screening last week here for this…I missed it to go to Blackhat screening instead.. now I am regretting that decision.. as it seems it’s most likely quite a bit better. :/

    • Is it still screening? I would’ve liked to have seen this in a theater. It didn’t get a very wide release – 14 theaters at its peak – but it’s a fascinating film. I’d seek it out when it’s available to you.

  7. GaryGreg828 Says:

    I loved the vibe and deliberate pacing. You should check out this black-and-white french film “Angel A”. It’s much like this. Very similar vibe. I think you’d dig it.

  8. Just finished watching this (finally!) and I have to say its ending left me wanting. But still, this is, at the very least, an incredible visual treat. Love, love, love the cross-cultural bleeding (almost literally). I’m not sure if it feels more Iranian or American. Western or foreign. Downbeat or optimistic. I think I need to watch again. Good review!

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