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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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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.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
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!

It is fitting that the only hope for this romance of two “starred cross lovers” lies in the boy having the strength of will to leave behind the burden of his father.
My only disappointment with the film, I fear, was with the filmmaker herself.
A word of advice Ms Amirpour, you would do yourself a service by trying to see that during question and answer sessions you and your star don’t come across as blasé snits.
Fortunately, one goes to view the art, not the artist. Were we to distain the product of unsocial, unlikable, unwise and unacceptable artists well museum walls would be bare and movie theatres would house community Bingo nightly.
So Ms. Amirpour can get away with being a blasé snit, as long as she’s a talented blasé snit.
***

* 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

Not Rated

Released: 2013

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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