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Vamped Up

Ana Lily Amirpour’s lush, dark vampire film drifts enjoyably
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

There are no other vampire stories like this.

In a strange, dark town — one with few residents but with a bustling drug trade, with rich young women and clever street urchins — a young man named Arash (Arash Marandi) lives with his junkie father and a cat he picks up in the film’s opening scenes. Arash is done up to recall James Dean; he’s a classic, as is the beautiful car he drives. 

Elsewhere in Bad City, a girl (Sheila Vand) lives alone, her walls papered with tokens from the ’80s. Iconic posters stare down at her (look closely, though; it’s not Madonna but Margaret Atwood). She listens to vinyl and wears a striped boat-neck shirt that recalls Jean Seberg. The movie she’s in is more than a little bit Western: The soundtrack playfully waves at Ennio Morricone, and Bad City is a hotbed of illegal activity, drugs, prostitution and little rich girls buying X at dance clubs. There’s no mention of the law. There’s just a ditch full of bodies outside town. 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is often referred to as an Iranian Western vampire film, all of which is true but seems like a glib bit of shorthand. Shot in dreamy, lush black-and-white and full of long silences, it’s a story about two loners connecting despite themselves.

High as a kite and dressed as Dracula, Arash meets the girl somewhere in Bad City. He’s lost, and he’s not afraid of her. (Maybe he should be.) She’s wrapped in flowing black and coasting down streets on a skateboard she liberated from another local. 

I could watch the nameless girl simply float through the streets of her ghostly town for the duration of writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s movie, which is slightly overlong and drifty, but enjoyably so, if your tastes are aligned with the director’s. The girl goes about her business calmly, a dark figure looming at the end of a street, only her pale face visible under a chador. Silent, deadly, unknowable, she preys on other predators, rendering the world a safer place for other girls and a few good boys. 

Though everyone in A Girl Walks Home speaks Farsi, the movie was filmed in California; the machinery that looms in the background, silhouetted against a glaring sun, lends a feeling of inevitability to the town and the film. The motions repeat, the patterns converge. Amirpour’s vampire isn’t the hyperliterate, worldly vampire of Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive, nor the tortured, dramatic soul of one of Buffy’s tormented boyfriends. Her existence is never explained, her peers unmentioned. She’s the girl. She’s a force of nature. She’s fantastic. (Bijou Metro)