Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ana Lily Amirpour's Amer-Iranian vampire film noir: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

If you want "specialized," you can't get much more so than the new American-Iranian film-noir vampire-flick with a western motif, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT. It's got "arthouse" written all over it -- except that its subject matter would normally turn off the crowd that attends arthouse cinema. It's also got "feminist" written all over it, which should bring in the younger crowd, both women and some men. The film is also rather beautifully crafted -- shot in gorgeous black-and-white with some striking compositions and music that resounds.

The film's writer/director is a young woman named Ana Lily Amirpour (shown at left), and although I feel this particular film of hers has been rather wildly over-rated, still, the lady has talent and we're sure to be hearing from her again. What she does not have, at this point in her career, is the ability to provide enough content to fill out her film's 99-minute running time. She's got the look down pat, along with the various victims and their stories. But a sense of repetition sets in far too early, and there is not enough real content to fill the remaining minutes. There's about an hour of actual movie here. The rest is vamping. Lovely-to-look-at vamping, but vamping nonetheless.

To give credit where it is most due, I must praise the cinematographer, Lyle Vincent, for his really spectacular work here. The creamy grays, the elegant compositions, and all else that goes into crack black-and-white.

If I go into much details about the "plot" of this movie, I am likely to give away just about everything there is to spoil. So let's just say that this is a noirish, feminist, vampire tale in which our vampire -- a good woman, of sorts anyway -- does away with much of the scum of society (all men, don'cha know?) to make the world a better place. That's she's wearing a chador just adds to the originality and fun. Supposedly set in Iran but filmed in California (some of the locations look like CA suburbia), for the most part Amirpour and Vincent capture what passes for the Middle East.

And once folk start dying, each for his own good reason -- nasty behavior toward women, drug addiction, being homeless (Huh? Well, a girl's gotta eat) -- while the movie picks up some speed, it also begins to grow a tad repetitious. In its most charming scene, a certain character of shorter stature is warned not to become like all these other (dead) men.

From the beginning, as we're gifted with that great cinematography, more of those Persian Cats, a mass grave, oil and even the Persian James Dean (above), it is almost too much of a good thing. With the addition of suspense, gore and a villain (below) about whom we're more than happy to see dispensed, it appears we're really going somewhere. But soon enough we note that Ms Amirpour is too locked into the look and atmosphere of her movie to turn out a genuine vampire film.

The best of this particular genre -- from Hammer's Horror of Dracula to Bigelow's Near Dark -- moves! This one, as it confronts everything from avenging angels and their diet to family trauma and romance, grows sleepier and more "artistic." Still, it's an interesting and relatively original start, so we'll look forward to Ms Amirpour's next venture.

Meanwhile, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night -- from Kino Lorber -- plays at the St. Louis International Film Festival (today, Nov 18) and opens theatrically this Friday, November 21, in New York City at the IFC Center and in Los Angeles at Landmark's NuArt. Over the weeks to come it will open in another 13 cities. View all the currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters, by clicking here and scrolling down.

Note: Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour will appear in person 
at NYC's IFC Center on Friday, November 21, at the 7:25 show, &
at the NuArt in L.A. on Saturday, November 22, for a Q&A 
after the 7:30pm show and to introduce the 9:50pm show. 
She will also appear at the NuArt on Sunday, November 23 for a 
Q&A after the 5:00pm show, and for an introduction to 
and a Q&A after the 7:30pm show. 

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