There’s a tendency for debut directors to treat their first films as a highlight reel, collecting every great shot they’ve ever imagined, referencing every great film and emphasising this is what I can do over this is what I have to say.
Ana Lili Amirpour occasionally falls into this trap in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Fortunately the Iranian-American film’s seductive shapelessness and youthful vitality means that the stylistic density is justified. That shapelessness extends to the plot, which is so elusive that it defies synopsising, and the genre, which is a furious blend of romance, black comedy, feminist vampire movie, spaghetti western and post-apocalyptic neo-noir.
As with many first-time auteurs, Amirpour’s influences are obvious: Jarmusch, Tarantino, Lynch, Leone (particularly the latter, from whom she steals both an iconic shot and Morricone’s aural aesthetic). But she has an eye –expressionistic black-and-white and clever use of a shallow depth of field – and an ear – a sardonic soundtrack – that prevents the film from toppling into pastiche and forgives the occasional misjudged shot. I admit to wishing for more thematic clarity, even at the expense of aesthetic flourishes, but I can’t deny the intoxicating allure of the film’s oneiric, intangible atmosphere.