A Hipster Iranian Vampire Haunts In 'A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night'
Swirling together postwar teenage Americana and 21st Century hipster cool in the "first Iranian vampire" film, Ana Lily Amirpour's directorial debut A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a singular medley of influences and cultural touchstones. The film demonstrates that, at the very least, Amirpour has a knack for style. Her languid black and white widescreen compositions can be highly evocative, like early Jim Jarmusch translated into Farsi.
It also conceptually recalls a more recent Jarmusch effort, Only Lovers Left Alive, partly centering its threadbare narrative around a vampire with a keen sense of taste. A character known only as "The Girl" (Sheila Vand) is a vampire who stalks the streets of the Iranian oil-boom ghost town Bad City (actually filmed in Taft, California, just outside of Amirpour's hometown of Bakersfield), preying on men and keeping a watchful eye on the few other denizens she doesn't consume. When she's not sucking dry those who she seduces, she dances to her nouveau-disco records in a room decorated with a mirrorball and pinups of Prince and Madonna. One of these Bad City residents she spares of her hunger and embarks on a burgeoning romance with is Arash (Arash Marandi), a swooning, Persian stand-in for James Dean complete with a badass ride.
Watching The Girl dance like a charmed snake to Glass Candy records is as intoxicating as watching Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie, and the seduction-by-way-of-gestures between Arash and The Girl is expressionistic bliss. However, the pleasures of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night are mostly surface-level and in need of ideas underneath. The notion of The Girl preying on men while wearing her hijab is striking, but its feminist and cultural implications seem beyond the ken of what Amirpour is striving for. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night shows a promising talent working behind the camera, but it is very much like the ghost town it is set in—empty behind its facade.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is now playing in Los Angeles (The Nuart Theatre) and New York (IFC Center). Director Ana Lily Amirpour is in person tonight at the IFC Center and at the Nuart Theatre on Saturday and Sunday.