Movie: **** 1/2 out of 5
Video: **** 1/2
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Ana Lily Amirpour’s ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ on Blogcritics.
Buzz can surround a movie when it plays the Sundance Film Festival and Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
was no exception. Playing to rave reviews out of the 2014 festival, it
was released in art house theaters to even more praise, but it still
took a Blu-ray release for me to finally see it. This month seems to be
particularly full of playing Sundance catch up as there’s also been the
release of the Mo Brothers’ Killers and Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. All three couldn’t be more different, but they’re all exceptional releases. Dark in nature, but no less fantastic filmmaking, AGWHAN
is a mash-up of all things pop and pulp, while managing to beat its own
drum. It’s available now from Kino Lorber on Blu-ray and DVD.
Iran, the sleazy Bad City doesn’t know it’s being stalked by a
predator. The Girl (Sheila Vand) stalks the streets full of drug dealers
and prostitutes such as Saeed (Dominic Rains) and Atti (Mozhan Marnò).
Among them, we meet Arash (Arash Marandi) who loves his car, and his
drug addicted father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh). A string of incidents
pits Arash on a new journey as he takes over the local drug trafficking
and meets The Girl after an ecstasy-fueled party. Now, The Girl and
Arash discover they may have found true love, even if Arash has no idea
that she’s responsible for the mounting body count taking its toll on
Bad City’s population.
AGWHAN makes its Blu-ray debut thankfully on a 50GB disc.
Considering the amount of intentional crush on hand with the
black-and-white comic-influenced cinematography, the image could have
been an indecipherable mess. However, all is right in Amirpour’s seedy
nightlife, making sure we only see what she wants us to see. Anyone who
complains that the image is “too dark” clearly doesn’t get the film’s
Clarity is phenomenal, with everything from facial features, costume
textures, to the buildings and streets, come to vivid life with
startling detail. There was one scene involving a young boy and The Girl
that featured some unsightly banding, but aside from that, I think the
Blu-ray represents a perfect presentation of Amirpour’s intentions. The
Farsi 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track keeps the viewer fully engaged.
Whether it’s the Sergio Leonne inspired pseudo-score by Federale,
pulsing pop from the soundtrack including White Lies’ standout “Death,”
party ambience, or just a passing thunderstorm, the sound design is even
better than the video. English subtitles are included.
want special features? You got em! One would normally feel overwhelmed
if they weren’t so fascinating. Just listening to Amirpour dissect her
own film is something you could do for hours. She is even funnier than
she is smart, something rare in any director, let alone one making her
feature film debut. Kicking things off is “Behind-the-Scenes Footage”
(20:32) consisting of eight segments: “Arm Cast Removal,” “Teeth Mold,”
“Hand Plaster,” “Fang Fitting,” “Makeup Application,” “Party Scene,” and
“Arash’s Car.” The best segment is definitely watching the fake arm
being cast as the director, actor Rains, and an unnamed special effects
artist tease each other about how hot the room is and name-drop legends
Dick Smith and John Landis (both responsible for An American Werewolf in London).
“Deleted Scenes” (22:08) show that the film could have been even more
artsy than it is, but not necessarily in a positive way. Included are
“Makeup,” “At a Wall,” “The Kid Sings,” “Hossein is High,” “Inside a
Song,” “Rockabilly Suntan,” “Rockabilly Beating,” “Train Song,”
“Rockabilly’s Wounds,” “Sisyplus,” “Oil Rigs,” and “Boss Informercial.”
“Q&A Hosted by Roger Corman at the Hammer Museum, part of MoMA’s
Contender Series” (44:18) is a fantastic interview with Amirpour clearly
having the time of her life talking one-on-one with a legendary
filmmaker. Topics discussed range from her attending UCLA to making
horror films from age 12 to how limitations can push you to be more
creative. They also talk about her love of Anne Rice’s vampire series,
and the funniest moment as Corman mentions she’s been compared to
director Jim Jarmusch to which she admits to not being a fan.
Behind-the-Scenes Documentary” (19:13) is a lot of fun as we get to see
Amirpour in Los Angeles with her mother at Sundance Next Fest and her
interactions with executive producer Elijah Wood. Here we also learn
about her favorite movies: Pulp Fiction, the first two Back to the Future films — which she considers one film — and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. A director after my own heart.
“VICE Meets: Ana Lily and Sheila” (31:06) is a sit down conversation
with the director and star that takes us through the entire filmmaking
process from “Inspiration,” “Script Development,” “Characters,” and
“Fundamental Story.” Here, Amirpour also gushes about following the
philosophies of Bruce Lee. Rounding things out are a “Stills Gallery”
consisting of 32 on-set production photos, a theatrical trailer (1:29),
and an amazing 68-page booklet with an essay by Eric Kohn and two comics
written by Amirpour herself!
A lot of films never live up to the hype machine when they’re cranked through Sundance, but A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
more than succeeds. Amirpour has a far tighter grasp on what she set
out to make than most directors with years of experience. Never
pretending to be more than it is, the film is a sad examination of
characters who are tired of being alone, even if their destiny may mean
simply more of the same. Exuding plenty of sex appeal, wit, and tension,
this is the best “Iranian Vampire Western” you haven’t seen yet. With
the Blu-ray featuring spectacular video/audio and way more features than
most Hollywood blockbusters, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is not to be missed.