wed 26/06/2019

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night | reviews, news & interviews

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Style over substance in the supposed 'first Iranian vampire Western'

Sheila Vand's The Girl get ready for an evening out in 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'

A skateboarding female vampire in a striped Brêton top. A James Dean look-alike with a junkie father. A prostitute as confessor. Spaghetti western-influenced music. The black-and-white A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a smorgasbord of attention-grabbing elements brought together in what is being promoted as the “first Iranian vampire Western”.

The accuracy of the geographic tagging will be returned to in a few paragraphs, but one thing is clear about the self-consciously quirky A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: it’s a unique proposition.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Arash MarandiThe setting is Bad City, somewhere in Iran. Arash (Arash Marandi) has stolen a cat and lives with his gambling- and heroin-hooked father Hossein (Marshall Manesh). Arash’s pride is his vintage American car which is seized by drug dealing pimp Saeed (Dominic Rains) to pay for his father’s debts. While visiting prostitute Atti (Mozhan Marnò), Saeed soon finds that a character called The Girl (Sheila Vand) is on the scene. She turns out to be a vampire and kills Saeed. The Girl bonds with a little boy (Milad Eghbali) she has stolen a skateboard from. Bodies accumulate and are tossed into a ravine. The film culminates with The Girl and Arash fleeing Bad City. (ictured right, Arash Marandi as Arash)

Despite being in Farsi, this is not Iranian cinema as it’s usually encountered. But it does blur the boundaries between fantasy and reality in the manner of, say, Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up and co-opt the trope of uncorrupted child as witness to the terrible. Although, as signifying characteristics, these can be argued for, A Girl… really has more in common with the visual language of a graphic novel. One has, indeed, been produced as spin-off from the film. Overall though, the film is about setting familiar cinematic constructs in unfamiliar contexts.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Sheila Vand The GirlWith her depiction of The Girl as Jean Seberg-meets-Audrey Hepburn via the Middle East (pictured left), Sheila Vand’s is the most striking character. Despite his macho appearance – described by director Ana Lily Armirpour as the “Persian James Dean” – Arash is fundamentally passive. After he takes ecstasy at a party and is spurned by a rich girl, his position as a cork bobbing on the waves of what is around him is confirmed. It is not until the end of the film that he wrests some degree of control. Throughout, it is the female cast and the young boy – not yet fully male due to his age – which exert fascination and power.

Though the pick ‘n’ mix elements making up A Girl… suggest a magpie sensibility akin to Quentin Tarantino’s, the closest touchstone is Jim Jarmusch. The black-and-white Down by Law, Mystery Train and his more-recent vampire fantasia Only Lovers Left Alive all cast long shadows over a film which is more style than substance. Its core is not solid enough.

This is Armirpour’s first feature and draws from her 2011 short of the same name. While her family background is Iranian, the director is British born and spent her youth in Florida. The filming was undertaken in southern California. It is an American production. Elijah Wood is amongst the names in the credits. Few of the actors have roots directly in Iran. While entertaining enough, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a deliberate exercise in aesthetics rather than a fully formed artistic statement. And it’s about as Iranian as a spaghetti western is American.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Watch the trailer for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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