Ana Lily Amirpour is conceptually, if not literally, the lovechild of Ingmar Bergman, Jim Jarmusch and Eraserhead-era David Lynch. It’s lazy of me, I realise, to create a Mr Potato Head type amalgam of offbeat complex directors with metaphors for brains to sum up the debut movie I ‘experienced’ tonight by Iran’s hot new director. But trust me, the amalgam is a decent one.
Her next project is a dystopian love story set in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals; a romance featuring Keanu Reeves and Jim Carey. So clearly this highly idiosyncratic debut has done the trick as far as Hollywood is concerned and bagged her a bunch of A-listers to make what sounds like an “off beat” sophomore movie. Importantly, perhaps critically, it comes as a package with her cinematographer of A girl Walks Home… Lyle Vincent, because, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s every bit as important in this team as she is. So too, it should be said, is sound designer Jay Neirenberg.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What of this? Amirpour’s debut Iranian black and white cowboy vampire movie.
Well, it’s good. Very good in fact.
Too slow by far for many I’d speculate (and indeed in parts for me too) but let that take nothing away from the dazzling technical proficiency, the understated acting from leads Sheila Vand as the skateboarding ‘Girl/Vampire'” and Arash Marandi as the male eye candy.
And then there’s the cat. Ancient Celtic religions taught that cats were reincarnated souls of humans, and that they were able to see the future and clearly the cat in this movie is a pretty central character and presumably a metaphor for reincarnation. (After all a fairly significant proportion of the characters would be in need of such hope after they met stylised, but grisly, deaths at the hands (or teeth more precisely) of ‘the Girl’.)
It’s a strongly feminist film with all men, bar the male lead, portrayed as misogynistic and cruel, surely a reflection of Iranian society: the use of ‘the Girl’s’ chador as the vampiric cloak is also very powerful.
The movie has been compared (lazily) to Let The Right One In, largely because it’s written in a foreign language and is about vampires but where Let The Right One In was a tale of love and innocence this is a far grittier beast with revenge and retribution at its core.
Ignore the comparisons.
So, to conclude, a little slow but featuring massive technical ability, great music and two great central performances in a movie unlike any you have seen before.
That adds up to 8/10 for me. Edging 9.