While most people seem to fixate on the "Persian vampire" aspect of the American-based Anglo-Iranian filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour's debut feature, what's striking about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is just how utterly pop-cultural-American it is. That doesn't make it any less Iranian in spirit, but its mix of Arabian Nights storytelling, American pulp fiction and indie-film existentialism is fascinating
Shot in widescreen black and white in the US with a cast of Persian-Americans or Iranian expats, somewhere between Jim Jarmusch's early anomie and the Sin City/Streets of Fire school of stylized mythology, Ms. Amirpour's film drops a ton of post-eighties teenage existentialism and gothic cool within its openly cinephile framework of Tehran, California. It could even be a Cure cover of a Bruce Springsteen song about kids wanting to escape the towns where they're going nowhere fast - in this case the son of a junkie ne'er-do-well who's a handyman for a rich family (Arash Marandi), and a mysterious girl who turns out to be a vampire surviving on petty thefts (Sheila Vand).
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a stronger film stylistically than narratively, with Ms. Amirpour's eye for visuals and strong sense of atmospherics making the most of a thin, underdeveloped plot whose blanks can occasionally seem clumsy rather than deliberate. Neither straight-forward homage nor smirking pastiche, its intimations of tragedy fall a bit flat and its Persian background lend it a touch of the overly exotic, but there's visibly a very interesting director here in the making.
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
US, 2014, 100 minutes
cast Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Mozhan Marnò, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains, Milad Eghbali, Rome Shadanloo, Reza Sixo Safai
director/scriptwriter, Ana Lily Amirpour; cinematographer, Lyle Vincent (b&w widescreen); designer, Sergio de la Vega; costumer, Natalie O'Brien; editor, Alex O'Flinn; producers, Justin Begnaud and Sina Sayyah, Spectrevision and Say Ahh Productions in association with Logan Pictures and Black Light District
screened August 28th 2015, Lisbon, distributor screener