Sunday, January 04, 2015

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

It's saying a little bit more than usual when I comment that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was worth the trip to the theater - I say that pretty easily, but getting there yesterday was not exactly fun. It was snowing as I came out of the day's first movie (The Interview) at around 6:30pm, which should not have been as unexpected as it was for Boston in January, but it's been a mild winter so far, as exemplified by how it turned to rain while I was finishing up True Detective while killing time before the midnight show of this. That meant the snow didn't really even have a chance to be pretty for a night before becoming nasty slush.

I suppose the sensible thing to do might have been to not walk to the Coolidge Corner Theatre for a midnight screening, but those 11:59pm shows were the only ones not playing in the GoldScreen, and while I like the Coolidge's 14-person room when I'm able to get a ticket there, that part can be tricky when you don't like to buy movie tickets in advance unless you're absolutely sure you can make it (which I seldom am). So, I probably broke a pair of newish shoes in a lot more than they really needed, and still wound up with squishy, cold socks because there just isn't any avoiding deep puddles along that road. I managed to catch a bus for about five minutes, which naturally made me wonder if I might have been better off just standing around waiting for it at some point.

It got me there early enough to hang around in the lobby talking movies with Nancy & Brian, including the fun question of just how gross Why Don't You Play In Hell? is, because he doesn't like to be scared. My answer was "a lot of arterial spray", which was apparently acceptable. We folks who like weird genre films can sometimes have strange lines that we don't like to cross.

Also amusing: When we were finally able to go upstairs (Birdman was pushing right up against Girl's midnight showtime), the marquee above the auditorium entrance said "Home Alone" before alternating back to "A Girl Walks". Home Alone actually played there a couple weeks ago, probably to some of the same crowd, although obviously a much different experience.

It was still raining when I got out, so I wound up walking home, overhearing a conversation saying that writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour nailed Iran despite apparently never having been there, which interests me: The American media often feeds us an image of Iran as a very rigid dictatorship, with a much-feared "morality police", ayatollahs, extreme fundamentalism, etc., and while there's a lot of truth to that, it's a depiction that fosters an impression of a tiny ruling class and everyone else scraping by on the allowed scraps, even though Iran does have a middle class and living memory of a more liberal culture (albeit one with different autocrats at the top). A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was shot in California, and in many ways could easily be seen as a kind of heightened take on that area other than the Farsi dialogue and street signs. If it also scans as Iran, maybe there's a lot more common ground between us than people think - at least with the country's population, if not its rulers.

One more thing - while watching the film, I noticed that Amirpour did some things that were kind of comic-inspired, such as how the girl's hijab makes her a formless shadow; I did not realize until looking for related merch that she has actually written a couple of issues of a comic based upon the film. I don't know whether they ever came out in print editions or any local shop has them, so I'll probably have to dive into Comixology to read them. How to people like that service? Does it connect to my Marvel app (which uses it as an engine) or Amazon (who purchased them) with relatively little pain?

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

* * * (out of four)
Seen 3/4 January 2014 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run/@fter Midnite, DCP)

I don't know that I necessarily buy the "western" part of how A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is billed as "the first Iranian Vampire Western", even if there is occasionally some Morricone-sounding music on the soundtrack. At least that description gives someone at the ticket counter an idea of how enjoyably odd this movie is.

It takes a while before we are introduced to The Girl (Sheila Vand); first we're introduced to Arash (Arash Marandi), who works odd jobs to pay for his classic car and the drug habit of his father Hossein (Marshall Manesh). That is supplied by local dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains), who also has an arrangement with hooker Atti (Mozhan Marno). But just as Arash is about to steal from his boss's pretty daughter Shaydah (Rome Shadanloo) to pay off Saeed, the dealer invites that harmless-looking girl back to his place.

Even taking into account that the movie's "Bad City" seems like a pretty modern place, this story is less of a Western and more a film noir or youth-oriented drama; the setting is industrial, with oil derricks busy working in the background, the problems seeming locked in place rather than just passing through. Lyle Vincent's black-and-white cinematography is crisp and urban, sharp contrasts instead of natural grays. Writer/director/producer Ana Lily Amirpour, of course, isn't trying to represent just one genre, though, and she and her team build this world in clever, intriguing ways, from the quarry in the middle of town that is half Boot Hill and half mass grave to how the girl's hijab often makes her a formless shadow even as the stripes on her shirt indicate a hip young woman inside.

Full review at EFC.

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