The lady is a vamp...
Destined to become known as ‘The skateboarding Iranian vampire movie’, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut is not-quite horror that combines moody monochrome style, an eclectic soundtrack and hipster attitude to giddily inventive effect.
This isn’t Iranian cinema as you’ve ever seen it. In fact, despite being scripted in Farsi, the Iranian-American director shot the movie in Californian locations – doubling for the fictional Bad City, a landscape inspired by David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Frank Miller, where morality is unmoored and justice is left to the undead.
The nominal hero is Arash (Arash Marandi), a gardener struggling to deal with his junkie dad and the tattooed drug-dealer to whom they owe money. Unlikely salvation comes from the unnamed eponymous Girl (Sheila Vand) who, clad in hijab and striped jumper, glides through the night and lures the dealer to his doom.
What follows is mesmerisingly strange – as Amirpour has described it, an “Iranian fairytale”. The Girl seems sweet enough yet, as one chilling encounter with a petrified child reveals, she has her dark side. The result is a love story tinged by the possibility that she might bare fangs at any point, giving an electric atmosphere to the film’s stand-out moment: a long, slow, one-take seduction.
Given Amirpour’s heritage, it’s tempting to read a Middle Eastern subtext into Bad City, where corpses pile up unnoticed next to endless rows of oil derricks; into this midst the vampire (secular, feminist, Westernised) might be a judgement of sorts on her surroundings.
Yet the result is so beguiling it’s best to adopt the deadpan attitude of Arash’s cat (the best feline scene-stealer since Inside Llewyn Davis’ moggie) and just enjoy the ride.