It sounds like something that fell from a branch of the Tarantino tree: Surely a movie promoting itself as an Iranian vampire/spaghetti-Western indie featuring a skateboarding undead heroine must be doing its thing with tongue firmly in cheek. But hang on, because A Girl Walks Home is not too interested in genre spoofery. This debut feature by Ana Lily Amirpour (who grew up in Bakersfield of Iranian ancestry) is a very studied mood piece, dryly humorous and more inclined toward the arthouse than the drive-in. There will be blood—and it will be sucked—but Amirpour has more on her mind than horror.
It’s an American film, but it’s set in Iran and the dialogue is in Farsi. The cast includes many Iranian expatriates—or actors who, like Palo Alto–born leading lady Sheila Vand, grew up speaking Farsi in their American homes. Vand plays our unnamed heroine, a young woman who walks (and yes, sometimes skateboards) down the streets of Bad City at night. Clad in her chador, drenched in the movie’s black-and-white gloom, she has a great vampire vibe. The opening reel, in which she is picked up by a creepy pimp who doesn’t suspect the supernatural possibilities at play here, is an instant classic—atmospheric, menacing, odd. While this girl walks alone at night, her soulmate also moves through the nocturnal city. He is Arash (Arash Marandi), whose vintage T-bird has been claimed by a local gangster—yet even without wheels, he’s still cool. When he dresses as Count Dracula for a costume party and runs into the vampire there, their union is written in blood.
Amirpour, an experienced hand at short films, is content to let the movie float along on its gorgeous monochrome look and punk attitude. She seems to have taken the attitude that if vampires have nothing but time, why shouldn’t scenes just keep going on and on? Even though Girl feels like it could benefit from losing 20 minutes or so, you might miss the languid, going-nowhere pace if things were hurried. It goes without saying that Amirpour has turned the film into a graphic novel, which sounds like a good home for this kind of unhurried, arty, super-stylish project.
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT Runs Fri., Jan. 9–Thurs., Jan. 15 at SIFF Film Center; moves to SIFF Cinema Uptown Fri., Jan. 16. Not Rated. 99 minutes.