At Night, She Walks

Ana Lily Amirpour, I surely hope, will be getting some worthwhile projects or continues to direct indie films with the aesthetic and vision as her “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”. It doesn’t have to be a film shot in B&W (I can hear the critics responding with “artsy fartsy” similarly to another exotic vampire film shot that way in “Nadja” (1994)), but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind it if she decided to do so. That said, I am never one to ask an artist of Amirpour’s caliber to stick to a certain style or theme…the sky’s the limit for her if given a budget or chance to capitalize on this great film.

It is a simply plotted film. This isn’t about the plot—I felt it was a romance wrapped in a vampire disguise—as much as Amirpour’s visual strokes applied to her attractive cast. She’s interested in faces, especially. I am quite a mark for faces. I like when directors care about what a face can do for their film. Casting is obviously crucial in that regard. Amirpour does have some cool faces and loves to glamorize them with her camera. There is the uniqueness of this Iranian area at night, with this specific selection of a few characters, empty streets, crystalline white street lights haloing those walking the sidewalks, Sheila Vand in her chador haunting the film’s setting like Death awaiting the next passenger to the great beyond, Arash Marandi wandering through his adult youth without direction looking for something substantial that isn’t happening supporting his heroin junkie father (Marshall Manesh), the drug-dealing creep (Dominic Rains) who pimps a thirty-year-old hooker (Mozhan MarnĂ²) and preys on the weak by providing smack, and the seductive allure of a privileged beauty (Rome Shadanloo) to Arash who would love to be a part of her world but the status quo disallows it.

The “X” pill (like ecstasy) which Rome convinces, through her brand of appeal, Arash to “sample” and how lost in his trip the film elaborates once again allows Amirpour to define her style in a hypnotic way. Oh, and the music is important to Amirpour. That is one of the decisions of the film—the music and rock pieces—that really stood out to me.

When I fall head over heels for a movie, I drool and foam at the mouth for it. This is one of those cases. This isn’t a film which will feature a story that grabs you by the jugular. It is a lot about presentation, I won’t lie. But, gadzooks, does it get that right!

It does elegantly choose a set of people, a select group representing specific characters—as mentioned, the teenage dreamboat just missing the social standing in his favor, the coke-snorting pimp who has addicts funding his high lifestyle, the aging prostitute (aging defined by not being early twenties), the middle age junkie surrendered to his habit no matter how destructive it is to his son and himself, the wealthy sexpot with all the attention and popularity, and the lonely outcast (who just so happens to be a pretty vampire preying on the dregs of society to sustain her blood thirst) on the periphery of “Bad City” (where the film is essentially set). Shot in Cali but fictionalized in Iran, with the language representative of its setting; Amirpour gives us her own version, orchestrated within a visual feast.

A scene of note:

  • Vand is playing some obscure 80s song (well, within the context of the scene, it is a vinyl record placed on the turntable by her while Arash remains influenced by X), with only a side of her face exposed to the camera.
  • Arash spins her disco ball light hanging from the wall, gradually approaching her from behind.
  • Vand, with Arash unable to see it, begins to realize that she's smitten, and this smile knowing that he could be *the one* emerges. It is a smile that, despite the camera only showing a side profile, communicates so much from someone who had until then shown very little satisfying.
  • How long has Vand waited for something like this? Does she capitalize on his naivete regarding her closet vampirism or sink her teeth in his exposed neck?
  • Vand wants to instead cradle her head into his chest and live this moment to its fullest.
Here's the scene in full

Oh, and here is a cool interview from VICE with Amirpour and her star, Vand. God I hope they collaborate on more: