Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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DIR/WRI: Ana Lily Amirpour • PRO: Ana Lily Amirpour, Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah DOP: Lyle Vincent • ED: Alex O’Flinn • DES: Sergio De La Vega • CAST: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh

 

Filmed in stylish black and white, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night follows a variety of inhabitants in the immoral and lonely town of Bad City. Sheila Vand plays The Girl, a young female vampire who preys on the men of the town, standing out from the desolate backdrop in her long, flowing veil as she stalks a number of city dwellers. Another character who lives in the town is Arash (Arash Marandi), an Iranian James Dean-wannabe who is ashamed of his druggie father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh), and is soon forced by his father’s pusher, Saeed (Dominic Rains), to pay off Hossein’s debts with his cherished T-bird car. One night, The Girl and Arash cross paths and form a bond which proves to have life-changing consequences for both of them.

With the self-proclaimed tagline ‘The first Iranian Vampire Western’, it is safe to say that this is a break from the territory of previous Iranian films that have broken through to the western world. With the work of Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us), Jafar Panahi (The Mirror, The Circle, Offside), Asghar Farhadi (Academy Award winning A Separation) and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) receiving critical acclaim and numerous accolades in the highly competitive global film industry, it is encouraging to see talent continuing to emerge from the country, particularly in the young, female voice that distinguishes Ana Lily Amirpour. A successful short filmmaker, Amirpour both wrote and directed A Girl Walks Home, which marks her feature debut. The film has already generated significant anticipation following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and has received a number of award wins.

Every shot in the film is highly contemplative and memorable. The character of The Girl is striking in her long veil, which blows behind her ghost-like when she finds a skateboard and uses it to skate around the city. Her leggings and black and white striped top add a sense of youthfulness and innocence to her character. With characters names including ‘The Girl’, ‘The Junkie’, ‘The Princess’, ‘The Prostitute’ and ‘The Pimp’, the film knowingly uses types and plays around with narrative expectations to make the plot engrossing. The film has fun with its American references – to music videos, Frank Millerisms, Hollywood iconography and Tarantino-esque style – and its generic self-consciousness. The general sense of playfulness is probably the most important element that works to the film’s advantage.

The core relationship of the film between The Girl and Arash is lovingly filmed, with both Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi proving to be charming leads. Another stand-out is Dominic Rains, who makes his character Saeed, or ‘The Pimp’, another pleasure to watch. There are occasional pacing problems with the film and there are seeds sown into the plot that end up being neglected. Overall, though, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night provides an entertaining and smart alternative to the run-of-the-mill offerings from the big budget American studios.

Deirdre Molumby

 


15A (See IFCO for details)

93 minutes
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night  is released 22nd May 2015

 

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Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

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DIR: George Miller • WRI: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris • PRO: George Miller, Doug Mitchell, P.J. Voeten Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae • DOP: John Seale • ED: Jason Ballantine, Margaret Sixel • DES: Colin Gibson • MUS: Junkie XL • CAST: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

 

In a post-apocalyptic world of sand, dirt and orange hue, we find our hero, the one they call ‘Mad’, on the run from a gang of cheering, war-painted men bounding along in enormous vehicles. In spite of his efforts to escape, Max (Tom Hardy) is captured and brought to the town of Citadel. The leader of Citadel is Immortan Joe (clad in a Bane-like mask), who claims himself to be the redeemer of the townspeople. But not all are happy with his leadership and when a truck headed for the local gas town takes a detour, Immortan Joe sends out a war party. The driver of the truck is a warrior called Furiosa (Charlize Theron), whose life is about to collide with Max’s with full force.

From the opening sequence’s fast-motion shots, rapid editing, and hallucinogenic flashbacks of a child, we quickly realise one of the main objectives of Mad Max: Fury Road is to create a visual experience. From the opening shot, director George Miller (whose other major credit, beside the Mad Max films, is Happy Feet, oddly enough) drops us straight into Max’s world. As our protagonist stands by his car looking out on the desert horizon, a two-headed futuristic lizard slithers past. A voiceover informs us that human instinct has been reduced to a single motive – survival. It is a simple premise that has been brought to the big screen time and time again, but it is utilised effectively here nonetheless.

Having George Miller direct this reboot was definitely the right call. Having directed all three of the previous instalments of the franchise – Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – this is a world that Miller knows like the back of his hand. What’s more, with Fury Road being produced thirty years after the last Mad Max instalment, Miller is allowed to realise his vision to a bigger and better extent than ever before, mostly as a result of the major enhancements that have been made in computer generated effects since. At the same time, Miller does not rely on CGI or use it in an annoyingly overextended way either, and the production design of costumes, sets, make-up, etc. is essential and brilliantly accomplished in the capturing of this futuristic vision. The vehicles, locations and action sequences are more imaginative than any of the previous Mad Max instalments. Not only that, but Fury Road also stands out as one of the best action movies that has been produced in years.

There are car chases and explosions aplenty. The action is non-stop and the choreography impressive and often surprising. The characterisation is also right on point. Whether Hardy is better than Gibson at playing the enigmatic hero is debatable, but Charlize Theron shines as the strong-willed Furiosa while Nicholas Hoult is a hoot to watch in the role of the crazy but endearing Nux. Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also starred in the original Mad Max, is brilliantly grotesque and terrifying as the villain Immortan Joe with sidekick Nathan Jones, aka strongman competitor Megaman, on hand as the muscular brute Rictus Erectus.

Whether the viewer is young and unfamiliar with the Mel Gibson version of the films (young people should really be required to watch some of these films in school…), or prepared and willing to go back to this post-apocalyptic insane future, Mad Max: Fury Road is a thrilling, immersive experience for all.

 

Deirdre Molumby

 15A (See IFCO for details)

120 minutes
Mad Max: Fury Road is released 15th May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road – Official Website

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Report: IFI Spotlight 2015

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Deirdre Molumby attended IFI Spotlight 2015, a day-long space for in-depth critical engagement with current Irish media culture, which took place on Saturday, 25th April 2015 at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin.

 

Last weekend marked the Irish Film Institute’s third annual focus on Irish film and television. With guests including filmmakers, critics, academics and enthusiasts, IFI Spotlight 2015 provided a space for analysing the accomplishments of Irish film and television output in the last twelve months, and for discussing what aspects of the industry could be improved.

Ross Keane, director of the IFI, kicked things off by introducing this reflective and engaging event. He explained the wide range of programmes offered by the IFI that support the Irish film industry, including the Irish film archive, a new Irish shorts programme, and Ireland on Sunday, the institute’s monthly showcase for new Irish film. The proceedings were subsequently moderated by Margaret Kelleher, Chairperson of the IFI Board of Directors, who introduced Dr Roddy Flynn of DCU.

Dr Flynn [above] gave the keynote address, which was entitled ‘20 Years a Growing or “The Ailsa to Zonad” of Irish Cinema or “What is Irish Cinema, Literally?”’. Dr Flynn demonstrated how he and fellow academic Tony Tracy were in the process of creating a survey database of feature films funded by the Irish Film Board produced in the last twenty years and trends in their production. Though he emphasised that there was much work still to be done, Dr Flynn had already come across a number of interesting findings. Some of the findings included that directors and screenwriters of the last twenty years were overwhelmingly male (at 81% and 83% respectively), though females dominate other areas of the industry such as costume design and make-up. Interestingly, the Irish film industry has a high number of writer-directors (62%), which is quite unusual by the international standard of having separate directors and screenwriters. Most of the films produced in the last twenty years have been dramas and have been set in Dublin. Other findings included that there are vastly different budgets across Irish feature films and that there have been a great number of international co-productions made in the last two decades.

Dr Flynn was followed by the first panel of the day, which reviewed the Irish film and television output of the year 2014. Sunniva O’Flynn, Head of Irish Film Programming at the IFI, chaired the panel, which included producer and festival director David Rane, Executive Director of Screen Directors Guild Birch Hamilton, animator and Oscar nominee Tomm Moore, and Commissioning Director of TG4 Micheál Ó Meallaigh.

Hamilton observed that the lines between the television and film industries are blurring, and that producers and filmmakers need to look to broader areas of broadcasting, online and digital for assimilation in the future. Birch also stated that she believed there needed to be more of a focus on first-time directors who, having shown talent in their first production, should receive support to make a second. Moore found that the state of the Irish animation industry was very healthy with productions being made specifically for international companies, for example, Doc McStuffins for Disney Junior, while other Irish productions are travelling well abroad, such as Henry Hugglemonster. Penguin, Walker and other publishers have been working with animation companies, and the possibilities for international co-productions could be opened even further, to Asia and South America rather than just Europe. Moore also spoke positively about the first Irish Animation Awards, which were held in Dingle, and about the apprenticeships and collaborative relationships offered by the animation industry in Ireland.

Next, Ó Meallaigh talked about Irish language productions and television drama. For Ó Meallaigh, the greatest challenge TG4 has to face is subtitles, as audiences struggle to listen to dialogue, read text and follow a program at the same time. He also spoke about realistic ways to use the Irish language in a film or TV production, for example, An Bronntanas uses a mix of English and Irish while Corp is Anam is set in a fictional town where only Irish is spoken. Rane then spoke about feature documentary production in Ireland, and found that its current state is very poor. He observed that more funding was going to American, English and German documentary filmmakers than to Irish, and that Irish documentaries were not getting enough international distribution. Rane found that Irish broadcasters were happy to air Irish documentaries but were not putting enough money into them, and agreed with Birch that a reinvestment in talent was sorely needed. After the four industry members spoke, an in-depth discussion was had between the audience members and the panel through Q&As.

After an afternoon break, the IFI Spotlight Soapbox was given to Brian Finnegan [above], editor of GCN and author of The Forced Redundancy Film Club. In the run-up to the Marriage Equality Referendum this May, Finnegan looked at the representation of LGBT issues across the history of Irish film, with a focus on gay protagonists. Looking at a number of texts including A Man of No Importance, 2 by 4, Breakfast on Pluto and Albert Nobbs, Finnegan found that these films, in spite of their representation of queer protagonists, cannot be considered queer or gay texts, as the lead would often be a figure of victimisation, gay sex was portrayed unrealistically or not at all, and that acceptance of identity and sexuality does not occur in the finale of these films. He found that Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game has been the only film to satisfactorily explore these issues.

The second panel was then held. Entitled ‘I’m Not a Fan of Irish Movies’, inspired by the comments of director John Michael McDonagh earlier this year that he did not consider his film Calvary an Irish film and that he did not think Irish films were any good, the panel sought to address these comments as well as to discuss the current state of Irish movies generally. The chai,r Dr Debbie Ging, chair of the MA in Film and Television Studies at DCU, introduced the panel and made some observations of her own, including that Irish cinema has seen a shift away from themes such as motherhood and rural locales to new urban, universal themes. She also noted the vast number of ways to categorise films as Irish including location, origin of director/writer, funding, themes and more.

The panel, which included director Lenny Abrahamson, writer/director Carmel Winters, and Sunday Times chief arts editor Eithne Shortall, all had different and interesting points to make. Abrahamson stated it was vital for filmmakers to avoid the same themes of previous Irish cinemas, and that they need to create films that can be viewed through multiple prisms. Winters celebrated the accomplishments of recent Irish film, particularly given the relatively small size of Ireland, as well as its limited budgets and crew numbers. Shortall observed that McDonagh, and his brother, Martin McDonagh, use a version of Irishness in what they produce, and that Calvary uses Ireland rather than adding to Irish cinema. After the comments, there was a lively Q&A and discussion about these and other topics such as Irish movies in the box office.

Lastly, Margaret Kelleher summarised the day’s proceedings and encouraged the guest speakers to say what they would like to see happen in the industry over the next year.

 

Deirdre Molumby is an MLitt Film Studies student at TCD

 

You can listen to all the day’s talks and panels here

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