Tuesday, December 16, 2014
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
You’re done with vampire movies, right? Believe me, I get it. At this point, even those of you who dug “Let the Right One In” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” and Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium” have concluded that nobody can possibly bring anything new to the bloodsucker genre. It’s over. You didn’t know that you have been waiting, and indeed longing, for a feminist-romantic Iranian vampire movie, with undertones of Goth graphic novel and Sergio Leone western. Oh, and which is in black-and-white, entirely in Farsi, and was shot in Southern California. That movie is “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” the first feature from the young Iranian-American writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour, which is the biggest honest-to-God discovery of 2014.
OK, it’s true that when I say “you” in the above paragraph I really mean me. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is a strange and gorgeous and haunting film that brings the indie aesthetic of the mid-1980s into a context that feels both timeless and highly contemporary. It reminded me of watching “Stranger Than Paradise” or “Eraserhead” for the first time (two movies Amirpour has clearly seen) and having that feeling that boils down to “The person who made this is really cool.” Amirpour repurposes the most familiar kinds of ingredients – this is essentially a story about a boy, a girl and a really cool car – to create something that feels both classic and unknown.
All that said, let me acknowledge the evident fact that “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is not pitched at everyone’s frequency. If your taste in vampire movies runs to action rather than atmosphere, to forward momentum rather than sound-and-vision – and to color film, real-world settings and characters with names – then this might not be the movie for you. On the other hand, if you wish more movies had the ambiguous, erotic vibe of classic David Bowie albums, or if you’d like to know what Jarmusch’s films would be like if he were young and female and Persian, then you are so there. I am there with bells on. I love this movie; it moved me and thrilled me in ways I totally did not expect.