A lovely post-punk lark with one foot in ’80s ironic-indieland and the other in Iran, Ana Lily Amirpour’s feature debut could become a totem for a hipster world mad for jukebox funkiness, vampires, and gender-politics righteousness.
It’s got all the gumballs, from the shadowy-retro black-and-white HD to an all-Persian (or Persian American) soundtrack that travels from rockabilly to spaghetti western. That it’s set in an underpopulated comic-book “Iran” (shot in the San Joaquin Valley), where everybody speaks Farsi but seems lost in an old Aki Kaurismäki movie anyway, just peppers the stew.
Story propulsion takes a backseat to archness, but that won’t bother some of us, for whom a feminist-vampire diss of Shariah norms is long overdue. We’re in Bad City, a desolate metropolis thick with vice, pumping oil rigs, and hanging out. Amid a web of desperate lives, The Girl (Sheila Vand), a saucer-eyed waif in a bob and a black chador, preys on various dirtbag men and gets unexpectedly wooed by a good-hearted but clueless boy (Arash Marandi).
Drowsily paced, the film spins its wheels for sizable swatches but regularly blooms into poetic kitsch, especially once The Girl sheds her signature cloak in her disco-ball flat and rocks out. In the end, this morphing of ideas and styles is more deadpan romantic than sociocritical, and sweeter for it.