Blog Directory CineVerse: A vampire flick that doesn't suck

A vampire flick that doesn't suck

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Deconstructing an Iranian vampire western isn't exactly easy--but then it again it can be, if you have some fun with it. That's what our CineVerse crowd did last night, fully relishing the opportunity to draw comparisons between our chosen feature--"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"--and previous vampire films as well as numerous classic movies. Our collective observations follow:

What did you find memorable, distinctive, or unpredictable about this picture?

  • It seems to blend several different subgenres and styles, including the vampire movie, the western, the teen angst film, the arthouse feature, and the postmodern meta movie of the likes of Quentin Tarantino.
  • The decision to shoot in black and white makes this feel like a throwback film to an earlier time, when classic horror movies or independent American films of the 1970s and 1980s were more in vogue.
  • We get the point of view of a cat in some shots—a curious choice.
  • The score features a diverse array of musical styles and cultures.
  • The setting seems to be an alternate universe that mirrors our own. According to reviewer Ren Jender: “The film takes place in a parallel California which contains a Farsi-speaking, Iranian enclave called “Bad City.” We know we’re not in Iran because the pimp has visible tattoos and later we see a woman in public with her hair and much of her body uncovered. Also The Girl wears her chador in such a way that we see her hipster, stripey, boat shirt (too short for modest dress) and skinny jeans underneath.”
  • There are fun references to many classic movies peppered throughout the film, including Diabolique (the bathtub scene); Giant (the oil rigs); the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (we hear a trumpet-heavy song reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s score in that film); Duck Soup (when The Girl mimics the movements of Hossein); M (the balloon that touches the power line); and The Third Man (the shots in the dark tunnel and the boy peering out from the second-floor window).
Can you identify any themes or big ideas at work?
  • Feminism and a backlash against patriarchal values and the social and cultural suppression of women
  • Consider how the film targets males, especially those who are cruel to women and cats.
  • Females, like cats, have an aura of mystery, chic and unpredictability about them; the girl, like cats, is a survivor with seemingly multiple lives and multiple sides to her personality.
  • The girl vampire’s chador represents multiple things: a dark cape like a vampire count would wear, a surrogate for her otherwise transforming into a bat, a symbol of patriarchal control of Persian women, and a symbol of the girl’s mystique and agency.
  • Women are powerful—and sometimes possess the power to horrify in ways more terrifying than men. Jender also wrote: “The first person who scares us when we are children is often a woman, whether it’s a mother or another woman authority figure.”
  • Going from the light to the dark, as Arash seems to do. Recall how he stares at the streetlight earlier in the film, and by the end of the picture is only shown at night—like The Girl.
  • It’s hard to be a “good boy” in Bad City. The film explores issues of morality—of right and wrong and light and dark—and how every person has the capacity for being good and bad.
What other movies does this film make you think of?
  • Persepolis
  • Spaghetti westerns like The Good the Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars
  • James Dean films like Rebel Without a Cause and Giant
  • Previous vampire films like Dracula’s Daughter, Vampyr, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, Let the Right One In, and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise
  • Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche
  • Appropriate Behavior, about a Persian bisexual woman challenged with rebuilding her life after a romantic breakup
  • David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Wild at Heart
  • Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City

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