A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT [LONDON FILM FESTIVAL]

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MOVIE REVIEW: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ANA LILY AMIRPOUR / SCREENPLAY: ANA LILY AMIRPOUR / STARRING: SHEILA VAND, ARASH MARANDI, MARSHALL MANESH / RELEASE DATE: TBC

Of all the preconceptions and expectations that you may have about Iranian cinema, you are unlikely to expect an Iranian film to be indescribably cool. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an achingly hip take on the vampire movie; forged from Western influences, but strikingly original and a million times more romantic, horrific and even youthful than Twilight.

Completely rejecting the idea that a girl walking home alone at night is in some kind of danger, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature has its James Dean-modelled hero Arash roaming the streets and looking just as vulnerable as any of the female characters. Making ends meet by gardening at a luxury mansion, Arash has saved up for a car but is forced to give up his precious vehicle when his father’s drug dealer Saeed comes looking for the money he is owed. Meanwhile, a mysterious sexy hijab-clad vampire prowls the streets looking for prey; skateboarding her way to iconic status like a cross between a femme fatale and Batman.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night knows exactly how cool it is, appearing to effortlessly sink its teeth into pop culture and cinematic influences. From its attractive young cast, to its sparse dialogue, gorgeous monochrome photography and fantastic soundtrack, it has all the boxes ticked for cult status. This is revolutionary Iranian cinema; not concerned with social realism, but far more interested in creating an unsettling, at times comical, mood. Often it feels as though you are watching a super-cool music video, its characters meandering aimlessly, but looking damn fine doing it. The story may wander, but the moody tone is ruthlessly controlled.

The vampire is the most alluring aspect of the film, with the male characters all emerging as frightened, needy men. She is a sinister but alluring creature and the film’s sudden turn into horror is arresting, unexpected and crowd pleasing. Sheila Vand strikes a perfect balance between vulnerable, vain, potential victim and poised snake, ready to pounce, fangs unleashed. The effects are subtle and the violence restrained, but it all adds to the surreal atmosphere.

The parallels between Jim Jarmusch’s recent Only Lovers Left Alive are hard to ignore, but A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is clearly its own beast. The eerie sound design and imposing industrial landscapes recall David Lynch’s Eraserhead, though there is nothing as weird as hamster-faced women hiding behind radiators here. Amirpour shows an astounding command of audio and visuals, with the edgy indie vibe never over egged, and every frame meticulously maintaining the at times oppressive and menacing and at other times liberating, vibrant mood.

From Arash’s costume to other Americana references, this is a film breaking free of its Iranian roots. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features a wonderful cultural mishmash of music, arthouse and genre elements. It certainly marks Amirpour as a deliciously talented director to watch out for. Just hope that her take on the vampire lives on far longer than those (un)bloody Twilight movies.

Expected Rating: 6 out of 10
Actual Rating:


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