By the time the vampire in the chador is skateboarding down a dark, desolate street, director Ana Lily Amirpour has ensured that “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” will roll on in your memory.
The vampire, a Persian-speaking waif called the Girl (Sheila Vand), also wears a striped fishing shirt and an occasional smear across her mouth that isn’t lipstick. She’s taken the skateboard from a nameless tyke (Milad Eghbali), whose indomitable quality and threadbare clothes evoke the children populating Abbas Kiarostami’s early films and, in turn, those of Italian neorealism. Whatever the inspiration, the kid is just one of a number of character types drifting through Amirpour’s cinematic fun house.
Shot for what seems like two well-spent dollars and change, this black-and-white movie opens with a male beauty, Arash (Arash Marandi), a gardener who’s been dolled up to resemble James Dean but looks more like a James Franco cousin. Wearing a T-shirt and jeans, his hair flopping prettily, Arash is posed in a desolate vista that brings to mind “Giant.”
There are other types milling around the periphery, including a prostitute (Mozhan Marno) and a rich woman (Rome Shadanloo). For the most part, however, Amirpour, in her feature directing debut, spends her time switching between Arash and the Girl, whose lives unfold on nearly parallel story tracks that — detail by detail, incident by incident — gradually converge.
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Amirpour shot her movie in Bakersfield, Calif., and she has obviously watched her share of Sergio Leone Westerns. She can fill a widescreen frame, and if you don’t mind narrative repetition and passages in which nothing much happens, beyond pretty people staring at other pretty people, you may not mind that she has trouble filling this overlong movie. Still, she gives you much to look at.
This is a movie that invites you to play a game of Name That Allusion, with Dean, Leone and so forth. Yet even as Amirpour draws heavily from various bodies of work with vampirelike hunger, she gives her influences new life by channeling them through other cultural forms, including her chador-cloaked vampire. The Girl isn’t actually alone: She has lots and lots of company.