We talk about Tarantino quite a bit around here. Deservedly so, the man is excellent at what he does. One thing in particular that strikes me about Tarantino is that he’s such an incredible nerd, but he’s able to create some of the coolest characters on the screen. (I always assume Tarantino is exactly like his character in From Dusk til Dawn, more on that movie shortly.) Tarantino has an ability to reach across genres and ages and give us some really cool worlds to hang out in.
I couldn’t help but think of Tarantino when I started to watch Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I’ve never seen an Iranian movie before let alone a Vampire Western New Wave Iranian movie. With her slick camera work shot wonderfully in black and white, Amirpour gives us what Tarantino gives us: Cool looking characters with interesting enough personalities and an air of mystery and tension. But what Amirpour fails to give us is a second half of a movie, ultimately falling short of Tarantino and much more like Rodriguez.
I’m tempted to compare it to From Dusk til Dawn, which disappointed me wildly as a kid when it turned into a campy vampire movie. But I’ve rewatched that movie willingly a dozen times and have come to appreciate it for what it is: Not a mix of two genres, but two genres butting heads. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night does a better job at mixing genre than From Dusk til Dawn, bit it just doesn’t give us something interesting.
I want to talk about the best aspect of the movie: How it looked. I hate black and white as a gimmick, but here it works as more than that. Arash Marandi just looks like he belongs on the big screen in the 50’s and 60’s and the way he is shot in black and white sells that noir feeling to me. I thought many of the camera angles and framing added to what would be otherwise blander scenes. I, of course, have to bring up Frances Ha because it’s over-rated and it needs to be brought down. Frances Ha just filmed in black and white and I never felt like its characters belonged in that world because they’re a bunch of immature hipsters, though of course hipsters would film in black and white. Here, the car and some costume choices made it make sense.
Be fore I get to the negatives, I just want to note that Sheila Vand was absolutely fantastic as The Girl. She did most of her acting with her eyes and I thought she did an amazing job of keeping your attention. I wanted to know more about that character.
But of course, we just don’t get to know much. The second half of this movie just flies by and hits plot points simply to move the thing along. The relationship between Arash and The Girl just doesn’t make sense. There was so little development there. They took two really interesting characters and just gave them a boring ending that depended on The Girl randomly coming across Arash’s dad and judging him. Reminds me of a few GoT plot decisions this season that are way too convenient. The Girl starts as an independent woman marching to her own drum to someone who just falls for a good-looking loner guy because he’s lonely and nice.
I would still put this movie at a B- at this point, but they went and did some things artistically and failed miserably. There are a few scenes that are absolute wastes.
What the fuck was the dancing scene? It probably has meaning, but I’m not sure how it fits into the plot. I could overlook it, but we needed that time for plot development.
I liked the oil derrick scenes combined with the bodies, but there they went to that well too many times. I get it: bodies pile up, but oil is produced so no one cares. No need to say it so many times.
I don’t get the bathtub scene. Maybe it was a feminist statement of fuck you, this is a naked woman, deal with it, but they lose any feminist credence when they have The Girl fall in love with Arash and leave everything for him.
I’m not shocked this scores so well on Rotten Tomatoes. This is right up the artsy folks alley because it’s proving points, maaaaan. It’s Iranian. I’m really into Iranian cinema.
Sorry, I need a full movie, not just some cool looking scenes with a bit of social justice.
C (which is a negative grade in my book)