The uniquely haunting aesthetic of the genre-bending "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," from writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour, is perfectly encapsulated in one glorious shot. As the alluring girl of the film's title (an honest-to-God vampire) glides down the middle of the street on a skateboard, arms outstretched, chador flapping behind her like a cape (or bat wings), her body comes to completely fill the frame -- it's an indelible image in a film that's loaded with them. The logline promises a "feminist Iranian vampire western," and that's a fairly accurate description for this atmospheric film, though it's first and foremost an artful exercise in style.
Set in a seedy, fictional city in Iran (though actually filmed in California), the film's loose plot centers on its handsome James Dean-esque leading man, Arash (Arash Marandi). Early on, Arash is forced to give up his 50's-era Thunderbird to pay off the debt of his heroin-addicted father (Marshall Manesh) when the tattooed neighborhood drug dealer (Dominic Rains) comes to collect. Searching for a way to earn back his prized possession, Arash finds himself turning to some unsavory activities.
Watching everything is the unnamed bloodsucker (the captivating Sheila Vand, "Argo"), credited only as "The Girl." Stalking through the night, The Girl acts as a sort of avenging angel targeting those who transgress her own moral boundaries (however blurry they may be), with a particular penchant for punishing the sins of men who prey on women. She approaches Arash on his way home from a party. Dressed up as Dracula, and whacked out on ecstasy, she finds him intriguing enough to bring back to her apartment, and the two strike up a tentative romance.
Visually arresting, with moody black-and-white cinematography, Amirpour invests "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" with a laconic, dreamy tone in the vein of Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch.
It also has a phenomenal soundtrack, blending Iranian rock with spaghetti-Western-inspired tunes from Portland band, Federale. Though the film goes on a bit too long to sustain its rather thin plot (a tighter script with a bit more momentum would have helped matters), it's hard to complain much about a film with a vision that feels this strikingly original.