Ana Lily Amirpour’s intelligent and superbly crafted film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is definitely a world view of a rebel with a cause. *
Within the very title of her entertaining social harangue masquerading as a fairy tale revised horror-flick, there lurks both foreboding and rebuke. For happy is that city where the phrase, “A girl walks home alone at night” does not carry at least some inkling of potential harm, threat or harassment.
But the girl in question here is the one given to dispensing the harm, threats and harassment.
Some films that jumble up their genres end up as disappointing hodgepodges, others as scintillating and stimulating potpourri – Amirpour secures herself a spot in the latter with her low-budget, reverse roles, thinking person’s Twilight.
Set in the “Iranian” backwater “Bad City,” and entirely in Farsi, Amirpour presents us with the unlikely romance between a small town hipster (Arash Marandi) and “the girl” (Shelia Vand) a blood sucking denizen of the underworld with a taste for American rock n’ roll.
With her choices in casting, Amirpour demonstrates a strong eye for talent as well as the camera. In spite of stating a preferences for the films of Larry Clark over Citizen Kane, a folly of youth we can perhaps overlook, her cinematography, through director of photography Lyle Vincent, reminds one of Welles’ Touch of Evil in its cold, crisp rendering of the boundaries of evil.
Vand, Marandi and her cast in general are not to be faulted. And seeing “new” talent is always a joy. At least “new” to this reviewer who was only familiar with Marshall Manesh, a fine actor who had the misfortune to be included in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Lorene Scafaria’s misconceived mangling of the 1998 Canadian gem Last Night by Don McKellar.
Amirpour has not only shown strength in casting actors, but also in location casting; for in the role of “Bad City” we have an all but unrecognizable Bakersfield, California.
In imposing her make-believe Iran-slash-Middle East on the California community of Bakersfield (population 347,483**) the director has succeeded in manifold fashions; visually it is stunning and convincing as a foreign land; and it eliminated insurmountable barriers to the film making, both economical and political. Additionally, the choice of locale tells, quite craftily, an unpleasant “Truth” in that most feminine of ways; to employ Emily Dickenson’s phrase, by “telling it on a slant.”
Here the slanted truth alludes to the shameful reality that despite any cultural arrogance, we dare not claim that walking the streets of Encino or Queens at night are any less challenging to women than the deserted lanes of “Bad City.”
Amirpour’s Farsi vampire is in some ways a worthy nemesis to the Japanese Manga and film series Rapeman. Amirpour takes the high ground here hands down, as her vampire rights justifiable wrongs – doing away with the abusers, while sparing others with stern warnings. Mainly all Rapeman battles are neurotic notions of sexual insecurity***. Good luck there, I mother say – er – I mean “must” say!
* Ah, one of the few occasions I envy those languages with the attribute of genderizing words. For Amirpour’s cinematic stance is distinctly, defiantly, feminist, and in my somewhat flippant manner, I wish I could bestow the deserving distinction of her sex in the term, “rebel.”
** 2010 census. I go into every film I review as “naked” as I can. Meaning, as far as is possible, “wearing” no preconceptions”, bearing no prior info. So when my lovely wife Marlene leaned over in the midst of the film and whispered, “Doesn’t she make Bakersfield look good?” I snickered. My bad.
*** Rapeman advertises his “services” under the throw line, “Righting Wrongs through Penetration.”
Writer / Director – Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Sheila Vand as The Girl, Arash Marandi as Arash, Marshall Manesh as Hossein, Mozhan Marnò as Atti, Dominic Rains as Saeed