VOD Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
With a new film from Ana Lily Amirpour, The Bad Batch, on the cinematic horizon we take a look at her first film. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a breathtakingly beautiful film. It just doesn’t really say anything.
A little while back I came across a trailer for The Bad Batch, a movie that looks like Mad Max and The Bride had a lovechild. Despite having Keanu Reeves and Jason Momoa attached, the film has been relatively under the radar. I decided to look up the director, Ana Lily Amirpour. She’s been touted as “the next Tarantino”. Her first film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, was described as “an Iranian Spaghetti Western with a Vampire”. Color me intrigued.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Arash (Arash Marandi) is a young Iranian day laborer in Bad City. His father has let the loss of his wife destroy their lives. He owes a very bad man a lot of money due to his “medicine”: hookers and heroin. Watching this tale of woe unfold is a mysterious woman, named simply “The Girl” (Sheila Vand). This young chador adorned woman wanders the streets of bad city, watching but rarely speaking. Those she does speak to tend to meet a grisly end. She is a vampire, and a lonely one at that. A chance meeting with Arash sets wheels in motion that tie the two together, for good and ill.
Awash in Style
I can see where the references to Tarantino come from after watching this film. All the aspects of the cinematography point to a similar aesthetic: the stark use of light and dark (the film is shot in black and white); the kitschy-hip soundtrack; the use of sound (the audible drag of a cigarette often replaces dialogue or punctuation within dialogue). Everything oozes style. The main characters are bohemian-chic, and every supporting character is an icon of lower class Iranian culture made flesh.
The reference that came to mind first though was Kevin Smith. Stay with me here. Clerks was a directorial debut that lit up the independent film festivals. The same with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Both are a stylish use of black and white with indispensable soundtracks. If the Bad Batch looks like Mad Max meets Kill Bill, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night felt like Clerks had a late night tryst with a Calvin Klein commercial. Both turn a lens on the mundane existence of lower class youth stuck in a rut. And while both are an enjoyable watch, neither really have a whole lot to say.
That Long, Lonesome Highway
The final film that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night reminded me of was David Lynch’s Lost Highway. Both have Vampires (at least that’s the theory for Lost Highway I was given and I’m sticking to it), and both left me thoroughly confused as to what the film was trying to do with them. Whereas Lost Highway was purely a mind-fuck, A Girl just kind of exists. The only solid takeaway I got from the film is that Bad City was a place so awful in its hopelessness that any hand that offers a path out was worth holding. Even when soaked in blood. But even that point I had to tease out after a solid day of digesting the film.
My, What Pretty Teeth You Have
I enjoyed this film, but can’t quite say I liked it. Weird, I know, but this film was nothing if not a (night)walking contradiction. I was glad to have experienced such a strong cinematic style, but the substance left me empty. I think some of the praise Ana Lily Amirpour received on the film circuit is well deserved. This movie is pregnant with potential. It just didn’t feel like a full experience. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night did leave me excited to see The Bad Batch however (you check out the trailer here.) Maybe this director’s second outing will be more than a beautiful low-concept film without bite.