« Coffee Break | Main | Merry Christmas! »

December 22, 2015

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night


Ana Lily Amirpour - 2014
Kino Lorber BD Region A

Full disclosure here: I helped finance this movie. The Kickstarter campaign appeared on Facebook, and the premise of an Iranian Vampire Spaghetti western mishegoss of a film sounded interesting, to say the least. I tossed in a very modest amount, just enough to get a few emails letting me know that Amirpour has actually made her film, that it was playing the festival circuit, and was getting an actual theatrical release. Obviously, my investment paid off.

The blu-ray comes with several added supplements - deleted scenes, Amirpour discussing her film with Roger Corman, Amirpour and star Sheila Vand discussing the film with some guy from Vice, and a booklet with an essay from Erick Kohn of Indiewire. The booklet also comes with the "graphic novel", setting up the origin of "the girl" prior to her coming to Bad City, the imagined town where Girl takes place. And yet . . .

Some of the discussion adds insight into Amirpour's inspiration for making Girl. Most of the time, my feeling is one of "Cine Ipsa Loquitur', letting the film speak for itself. I think one of the most annoying aspects of Hollywood films is the need to explain things, especially with the comic book films and the fixation on "origin stories". Amirpour is confident enough that she let the audience figure out what's going on. Even though Amirpour has stated that Bad City is in an imaging Iran, it's also not impossible to visualize, as has happened in many American cities, a small town where everyone speaks Farsi. That we don't know where the vampire comes from or why she's in Bad City just adds to the mystery.

For me, the real tension in Girl has nothing to do with the horror genre aspects. The more palpable tension is cultural, a choice between Iranian tradition and a more western way of life. And none of the characters balance these choices in the same way. The young man, Arash, first seen cruising in his vintage Thunderbird, expresses concern about being alone in the same room as an unmarried young woman. The young woman is seen with a bandage on her nose suggesting that she may have had rhinoplasty, making her less obviously Middle Eastern facially. The girl, who is never named, dresses informally, somewhat reminiscent of Jean Seberg in Breathless, except when, out at night wearing the chador. The girl, as vampire, acts as the self appointed moral cop on the beat, sucking the blood out of a drug dealer, and scaring a young boy to stay on the straight and narrow. Amirpour has stated that her film came out the feeling of power she had skateboarding while wearing a chador, and with the cape of the chador flying in the wind, one of the film's most indelible images has been created.

In her discussion with Corman, Amirpour refers to her film as a fairy tale. Maybe not that big a stretch, as it made me think of Catherine Breillat's films inspired by the writings Charles Perrault, which teeter between fantasy and horror. Amirpour is aided in no small way by the black and white wide screen cinematography by Lyle Vincent. The shots of the oil derricks and run down houses filmed in Taft, California would be as fitting in classic film noir. The night here gets very black.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 22, 2015 05:43 PM