Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night has been described with the alluring ‘feminist Iranian vampire Western’ tagline. The description only partially fits this stylish, Jim Jarmusch-inspired feature. The protagonist (known as The Girl) is a vampire that wears a chador that looks like a superhero cape; she also wears a Breton top that recalls Godard's Jean Seberg, and favours a skateboard as her means on transportation. She lives in Bad City, a small, seedy oil town in Iran populated by gangsters and junkies: the location is merely coincidental, (the only Persian signifiers are the language that is spoken, and a few of the costumes), and a chance for some brooding Sergio Leone-inspired cinematography. The Girl usually preys on men who prey on women (hence the supposed feminist attitude) - her first victim being drug dealer Saeed, who abuses streetwalkers and supplies heroin to ageing Hossein, father of the superficially oh-so-soulful Arash, who is styled after James Dean (and eventually becomes The Girl's love interest).
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night feels like a cinephile's labour of love, a dreamy cross-cultural collage of interesting influences: this is its strength (the film is truly gorgeous, and a joy to watch), but also its weakness, as an interesting central concept remains opaque and superficial, refusing to develop into something deeper and more meaningful. So much more could have been done wit the image of the chador being a forewarning for a vampiric presence. Perhaps the film's Iranian setting made me wish for some sort of political or social commentary: that some critics have framed the film as a response to Iran’s repressive attitude towards women, but to me that is simply imposing a narrative that just isn’t there - Amirpour's attitude to her own work certainly seems to support that. This is no The Day I Became a Woman.
However, if we forget about gender politics or any other profound message, we realise that the film works well as a fun, multi-layered post-modern tribute to a certain lineage of US and Europeans film traditions - the soundtrack, swinging between Iranian rock, electropop and quasi Morricone numbers, is also enjoyable. The slow pacing and narrative repetition might irritate some, but those lingering, stark,black and white images are not such a bad place to be stuck after all.