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A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Year: 2014
Production Co: Say Aah Productions
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Shelia Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rains

Has there ever been an all-purpose, entry level mythological figure as endlessly applicable to any genre, style or tone as the vampire? The perennial monster has introduced us to new moviemaking styles, subgenres and figures countless times before, from Tod Browning to Stephanie Meyer and almost everyone in between.

This time it's down to Iranian filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour, who designs a profile as recognisable and iconic as those played by Bela Lugosi and Max Shrek in The Girl (Sheila Vand). Stalking silently down the streets of Bad City, Iran (in reality Taft, California) in her striped T shirt, jet black chador, waifish short hair and piercing black eyes The Girl almost floats, keeping pace with intended prey along the dark streets or just watching people, as if curious about humans.

How she got there, how long she's been there and anyting else you might want to know about her – including whether she's an evil monster or some kind of avenging angel – is never established. Any good she does in not attacking or killing 'good' characters like the hero of the tale or a street urchin kid seems to be a matter of curiosity and circumstance rather than any kind of moral direction. If you find her drifiting along the blackened suburban sidewalks or overgrown industrial area paths of Bad City behind you, you'd better hope she's simply not hungry.

The story around her concerns the comings and goings of a handful of Bad City locals. Arash (Arash Marandi) is a young local man who seems in love with American culture, dressing like James Dean and driving around in his 50s era car. He tries to handle his father's drug addiction, but it comes home to roost when local hood and his father's dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) decides to take Arash's beloved car as collateral for his father's drug debts.

Everyone – from Saeed to one of his girls and from Arash's father to the street urchin kid – cross paths with The Girl, not all of them coming out with their lives. But through the whole fim she's like a ghost, moving silently and appearing in the background and making you wonder who's life she's going to upend or take next.

It's all shot in very high contrast black and white and mostly at night, so even though there isn't a real sense of cohesion from one location to the next as we move from the suburbs to a hulking power plant to a neighbourhood park to a back alley, the whole movie has a very distinctive visual language. It's all low light and deep shadow, slow pans (I can only remember a single fast camera movement), well choreographed movement and assudious blocking that means some very creepy shot compositions.

And when it centres on Vand's expressionless face and darkly piercing eyes, you can feel instinctively that Amirpour has created another movie monster for the ages.

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