Arash (Arash Marandi) may be the only decent soul living in the desolate oil town Bad City. His own father is a junkie, one of many preyed upon by a dealer and pimp (Dominic Rains) who takes Arash's beloved vintage sports car in payment for dad's debts. But there is a most unusual vigilante targeting the City's degenerates who don't realize they should be fearful when "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night."
It's not every day you get to see a black and white Iranian vampire Western. Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour's audacious debut was shot in the California desert, but in the Farsi language in a style that recalls early Jim Jarmusch (and Michael Almereyda's "Nadja"). Amirpour's got a brilliant eye, conjuring images that are alternately creepy, beautiful and witty, just like her story, which also features homages to cinema's past.
Arash, his car and environs immediately invoke James Dean. Forlorn over the loss of the car he saved so long to get, he's unaware that a woman in full chador (Sheila Vand, "Argo") has already begun to avenge him after witnessing the pimp's abuse of prostitute Atti (Mozhan Marnò, "The Stoning of Soraya M."). Like Arash's feline, she's a nocturnal creature, seductive, hunting prey who believe he's luring her. A little music, a little swaying and the fangs come out.
This girl is a feminist vigilante, mostly targeting men who do bad by women. In one of the film's most disturbing scenes she approaches a street urchin (Milad Eghbali) - 'Are you a good boy?' she growls, 'I can take your eyes out of your skull.' When she returns home, her striped boatneck tee and closely cropped hair turn her into the image of "Breathless's" Jean Seberg as she samples her vinyl record collection.
But when Arash attends a costume party as Dracula and comes out a bit worse for wear, the girl is surprised by her reaction. Propping him on her skateboard, she pilots the boy home, her seduction this time focused on a different outcome.
Amirpour's studied her German Expressionism, as evidenced by her long take of the girl gliding behind Atti against a cement wall. When she skateboards down the street, her chador flutters around her like wings (or a more traditional vampire's cape). Daytime scenes evoke mid century Westerns. The DJ'ing director offers a stunning soundtrack from Federale, Radio Tehran, Bei Ru, Farah, White Lies, Kiosk, Free Electric Band and Dariush (whose son plays that little boy), a mix of 80's style new wave goth, Morricone and horror harpsichords.
"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" does what so few films these days can do - surprises us, makes the old new again and sweeps us up into its dangerous yet lyrical world.
Robin also gives "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" a B+.
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