At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jun 26th, 2015 •

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Whoever hasn’t heard that this is an Iranian vampire/Spaghetti-western shot in the US in Black and White by a first-time, female director, please raise your hand.

While AGWHAAN boldly acknowledges its cinematic influences, Ms. Amirpour chooses some that are relatively obscure, rather than dipping into the Universal Golden Age stable of monsters or the House of Hammer.

Take the balloon floating away – Fritz Lang’s M, right? Not a readily familiar image in most viewers’ repositories of film history. But Ana Lily Amirpour is a film fanatic. Watched Westerns with her father when she was young. References to other films abound. And yet…the film is very much her own.

And what about something more recent and experimental, nods to titles like LET THE RIGHT ONE IN? Or WILD AT HEART?

It does have the narrative inventiveness and casting similarities of those films, as well as LET THE RIGHT ONE IN’s central dilemma of the blood-sucker and her human lover/friend. Right now it’s hello to romance and adios to loneliness, but down the line he’ll have croaked and she’ll be on her own again.

Halfway in, it has one of the cleverest ‘meeting cute’ scenes in a decade. Followed by a music-driven pantomime in ultra-slow-directed-motion of instant adolescent love. Followed by the only pretentious, vanity-driven scene in the film, starting at 55 minutes. But hey, Ms. Amirpour is one of the few vital directors in the vast current indie film world, and she’s allowed the occasional indulgence in her otherwise tight and meticulously designed digital sculpture.

Among its many daring successes is the use of Taft, California to represent both Iran and a more fictional-fairy-tale hell zone called Bad City. Some of that success is due to the stark image of a ravine littered with human corpses. But most of it is the result of Lyle Vincent’s haunted use of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Blacks saturate like ink. Negative space is dripping with a luscious sense of dread.

The supplementals are excellent. There’s a forty-minute Q&A moderated by Roger Corman who, at 89, is mind-bogglingly sharp. His questions are provocative and pertinent; his comebacks to sudden shifts in her responses are immediate and exhibit none of the longish pauses of a person his age.. She, conversely, is uncomfortable on stage engaging in this pas de deux (which she isn’t elsewhere in the supplementals, such as when she shares her vision and preparations with Elijah Wood, one of the film’s producers. Corman does draw things out of her though, and as he does, she reveals herself to be complex, well-read, and brimming with personal opinions about modern life, much of which has crept into her movie.

Kino’s BluRay box is striking. A vampirish icon on the cover (which also manages to have a cultural overtone since the figure is wearing a chodor), foreboding black against red, is something Saul Bass would have appreciated. The bottom and top rims of the sleeve are snatches from the enclosed graphic novel. The word ‘girl’ in the title is in white letters, whereas the other six words are in red. In a tiny font above the title, the words ‘a film by’ are in red, and the director’s name is in white. Is she making a connection between herself and the ‘girl?’ Their physical similarities have been noted elsewhere. ‘Kino Lorber’ in small letters on the very bottom right is in white as well, so maybe I’m reading too much into the box cover design. But I wouldn’t put anything past Ms. Amirpour. The film clearly appears to be the work of a control freak – not at all a bad thing in this medium, where one practically has to be in order to get such striking results.

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