Writer & Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cinematographer: Lyle Vincent
Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh.
Iranian, vampire, black and white, spaghetti western, with elements of French New Wave.
Boy is that a weird sentence to write! And yet it is the only way to categorize this really interesting, fascinating, and sometimes perplexing film debut by writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour. Is the film weird? Yes, yes it is. Did I like it? Heck yeah, I did! But it is divisive and bizarre. My boyfriend, who watched it with me, kinda liked it, but some of his facial expressions throughout the viewing definitely embodied the weird aspects of the movie, which is not a horror film, in spite of it being a movie about vampires.
In the weirdest of ways, this film is a romantic one. Arash Marandi plays Arash, a young man who looks like a Persian James Dean, who works hard and tries to take care of his drug-addict father, played by Marshall Manesh (How I Met Your Mother). In his attempts to help his father and deal with the drug dealer/pimp who is the bane of his existence, Arash meets a girl with no name. The woman wears a black chador, and while she doesn’t really say anything, Arash is drawn to her, not realizing yet that their fates and lives are linked in so many ways.
The romantic elements are coupled with horrific ones. The Girl is a vampire, and a solitary one at that, and yet she yearns for Arash, and not in the way she does for other humans. She does not wish to feed on him. There is something more, something deeper – a connection to a humanity she may thought had been lost long before.
The cinematography in the film is beautiful, and the choice to film the entire movie in black and white proves to be a brilliant one. It highlights the play on shadows and light, it makes the more gruesome scenes less gory and more beautiful, and the industrial landscape that serves as a backdrop to the movie becomes more mythical and oneiric.
The film will divide audiences. For every person who will be mesmerized, someone will be horrified at a scene halfway through the movie in which a transgender woman dances for five uninterrupted minutes with a balloon in her hand for absolutely no reason.
I count myself as a fan of this quirky and weird little movie, and look very much forward to seeing what else this singular director has in store. If you see that initial description I wrote and it doesn’t turn you off, then this is the movie for you. For everyone else? I think you’ll find other vampire movies that are more up your alley.