I am not a very mysterious person. I'll give you a good example: a few weeks ago my new upstairs neighbors invited me up for a meet and greet and before the first hour was up one of them remarked that I had a lot of candor. They meant that as a compliment and I took it that way, but let's be honest: nobody ever walked away from their first meeting with, say, James Dean or Steve McQueen or Slash by saying "that guy was refreshingly honest!" No, I'm not the play-it-cool type and I don't keep my cards close to my vest. (This is in large part because I do not own any vests - they would clash with the Hawaiian shirts I tend to favor.)
Now, normally my inability to be mysterious is not a problem for this site. In fact, quite the opposite, since my tendency to methodically list in great detail all the reasons why I did or did not like something is actually pretty helpful for a would-be opinion writer. But every now and then it does present a problem, as it did with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
You see, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a moody vampire movie that is long on ambiance and short on plot. Technically it is about a young man who starts to flirt with an enigmatic bloodsucker after he discovers that she has preyed upon the pimp that hijacked his beloved classic car, but it's not really about that - it's more about imparting a certain ineffable vibe to the viewer. This is a movie that has a lot of slow, well composed shots that are timed so that they sync up exactly with a hypnotic score, but the characters don't really have names and the specifics of the time and place are pretty vague. (For example, the female vampire is listed in the credits as "The Girl" and the only given location is simply "Bad City".) In other words, this is the sort of movie that I'm just not built to write about - I don't really know what is cool and I don't really understand why most cool things are cool and as such I have no business spending a lot of time running my mouth about a movie whose main purpose is to try to be cool.
So instead of trying to dissect what makes this "Iranian vampire Western" tick and ruining it in the process I thought I would present you with a series of screen captures that will hopefully do a better of job of conveying this movie's icy sly tone better than I ever could with words. That said, I'm still going to comment on every image because, you know, I have to run my mouth a little bit or else why am I here?
This image will give you a good sense of why this movie's visual style is so compelling. It is a mixture of suburban normalcy and dark menace without being too heavy handed either way. It draws your eye to the pimp character in the foreground which allows it to hide an ominous figure in plain sight in the center of the frame - a classic case of misdirection. Also, notice the complex interplay between the predator and prey imagery - the pimp is on the right side of the frame (with the tigers) while the vampire is on the left side of the frame (with the deer), suggesting that he is the hunter even though he is actually being hunted - again, setting up a sense of duality that it then instantly undercuts. My one complaint about this composition? They buried my cat's head in the background when (quite honestly) this image would be a lot more dynamic if she was emphasized slightly more.
This image is a classic use of mise-en-scene: you have two figures who are sharing the same space but who are obviously on completely different planets. A quick glance at their body language immediately telegraphs the fact that these people are attracted to each other but they aren't yet comfortable sharing the same space together. If they were facing each other they would have a positive relationship, if they were facing away from each other they would have a negative relationship, but as it is they are in a no man's land that suggests that they have an awkward relationship. (And indeed, at this point in the movie our hero doesn't know what his relationship is to The Girl.) This image is also interesting because you would never guess that The Girl is a vampire from this glimpse of her room, which is decorated as if she was a teenager with posters covering every available surface and most of the light coming from a vanity mirror next to her bed. My one complaint about this image: I feel like they only managed to draw my cat's eyes to the top of the frame by putting a disco ball up there which feels cheap to me. I'm well aware that a good director does whatever they have to do to get the shot they want, but still, waving a shiny object at my cat's face to get her attention is kind of cheating.
This image is similar to the previous shot in that it also suggests that like Britney Spears The Girl is not a girl, not yet a woman. (That comparison would work a lot better if her name was not literally "The Girl" but I'm running with it anyway.) Here we are presented with her youthful face, an out of focus poster of a heartthrob, and a silly pose where she is treating her cat as if it was a machine gun, all of which suggest a juvenalia that's surprising given the fact that we were first introduced to this character when she was killing someone. This image is very representative of the movie's oddly compelling tone, since it has a singular ratio of melancholy to goofiness - her eyes are suggesting that she is weighted down with invisible burdens but the cat's eyes are telling a different story; she is an anxious outsider who is holding an hopeful insider in her arms. My one complaint about this image: I am not as good at photoshop as I would like to be.
This composition is another good representation of the film's offbeat sense of humor. The majority of this photo invokes classic tropes of Americana: you have young man and a young woman in an old style car parked at a make out spot, and he's thinking about sliding over to her and she's trying to play it cool - which is very 1955. However, there are two things complicating the tableau. One, she is wearing a chador on her head, which is not something you see in a lot of Archie comics. Two, they are being interrupted by a chaperone, which would be weird given the intimate setting even if their chaperone wasn't an overweight cat. Again, the interplay of the figures and their basic body language tells a comic story about alienation - she seems to have accepted this odd situation, but he seems to be thinking "what the hell, man, I drove us to lovers lane for a reason." My one complaint about this image: that cat is not my cat.
In many ways A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is an attack on suburbia from an outsider's perspective, as you can tell from this image. Generally well lit spaces are meant to be comforting - the increased visibility is supposed to cut back on nefarious behaviors. But here we sympathize with a nefarious character because he seems to be lost in a place that's too well lit and too wide open - not only does he not belong in this subdivision, it's hard to see how anyone could fit into such a desolate and unwelcoming landscape. Most movies that try to convey that suburbia is a suffocating hellhole do so with a lot of over the top angst, but this movie uses humor and horrific imagery to make that point in a more subtle way, and that subtlety makes these characters a lot more sympathetic even though some of them are (literally) monsters.
My one complaint about this image: why is my cat in a collar? I feel like she should only be forced to wear a collar when she has stitches that she shouldn't be licking and she hasn't had any surgeries lately. Don't dress my poor cat up like that, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, it's not polite.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of this movie, and I hope you got that it is mysterious and sexy and cool. Now if you'll excuse me I'm about to walk my Hawaiian-shirt loving face over to Subway to get some very non-exotic lunch.