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.
In 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 inspirations.
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.
You 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.
“VICE 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.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00SV06VLS][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00S4YGWD8][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00SJ9UBZI]