It’s human nature to want to categorize anything and everything so that it fits into a nice little box. When it comes to film genres, this can be both helpful and incredibly frustrating. Who is to say what’s horror and what’s not horror? What one person might consider a “slasher”, someone else might consider “revenge torture porn”, while there’s always someone willing to call it a “psychological thriller”. When a movie like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is described as an Iranian vampire western, there will be a lot of people who understandably, but incorrectly, assume that it will be a horror movie. Yes, there’s a vampire, and yes, there are a handful of violent scenes, but to call it a horror movie would be pigeonholing it and forces someone to compare it to things that are more true to the horror genre. The same can be said of Ana Lily Amirpour, who I’ve seen described as a “female filmmaker” as opposed to, oh I don’t know, just a “filmmaker” and leaving it at that. If I don’t consider her film to be a horror movie, then why am I writing about it for a genre-based website? One reason is to try to change people’s opinions of the film and to deter them from approaching A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night as a traditional horror film, and another is to shine some light on an interesting filmmaker who has some heavy genre influences so it will put Amirpour on your radar.
WolfMan: Between the panel that you were on this morning and from the film’s Q & A, I’ve noticed that you like talking about the things that you love. When it comes to talking about your movie, you obviously love talking about it, but since you love talking about your influences, I wondered what’s your favorite thing that David Lynch has made?
Ana Lily Amirpour: UGGGH I love David Lynch. He wrote “Lynch on Lynch”, which is interviews with him, going along with each film. There are interviews around Blue Velvet and Eraserhead, all of his films. That fucking book is the most gangster-ass, best book on filmmaking…not just on filmmaking though. On life. The dude…just who he is. You can only speak intelligently about the shit that fascinates you, really when you come down to it. I really just love him. I loooooove Lost Highway. It just fucks me up and sucks me in. Going down that hallway, when it flips…from Bill Pullman to Balthazar Getty…it’s just such a headtrip. His films are such a headtrip. I love all the weird shit, like in Wild at Heart, and Bobby Peru. I just love the creeps. This character in my film (Saeed), I just love him. People think he’s a bad guy. Variety described him as a misogynist…and I’m going to preface it by saying that they loved the movie, so it’s just interesting. What you are defines what you think these things are. To me, I love the gangsters. They’re like the juice. It’s like there’s always a bunny and a tiger in a room, that’s just the juice. You know what’s going to happen. It’s like, yeah okay, Saeed thinks he’s the tiger and she’s the bunny but really she’s the tiger and he’s the bunny. That’s like Sergio Leone and all the westerns, and I think Lynch does it to. Lars (von Trier) is cool too, I love him. His thing’s different. I loved Antichrist. I loved it. It’s probably one of my top five favorite movies. The feeling of fear and anxiety.
WM: One of the things that piqued my interest in your film is that it’s billed as a female Iranian vampire movie and that evokes things in everybody in a slightly different way. How do YOU sell your movie? Do you sell it as a love story or just about someone trying to find connections to other people?
ALA: I’m really lonely so when I see the film…it’s weird, because you never truly experience your own film. The making part is so great because it’s not lonely, because all these people are with you to help you do what you want to do, so that’s really cool. When I watched it, when we first started trying to cut it down to what it was going to be, I realized I was kind of romantic and believe in love, despite knowing it might not be practical or going to last, but I’m romantic. Before I saw it, I was lonely. I love life and I’m really good at having a good time, because I think that’s important, and it’s about a vampire . I hate death. I’m not one of these people who is at peace with the whole cycle of life thing. I think we should figure it out, nano-technology or whatever, cut it out, and stay here. Other people say, “But yeah, there’s something else,” and I say, “How the fuck do you know there’s something else? THIS is cool. This pink neon hallway, talking to you, I like THIS. Let’s do THIS.” And aging? Decaying in your own body? Yuck. Fuck, man. It terrifies me, really. So I’m just saying, I really enjoy life, and I’m extremely lonely, and I think that’s what all the characters in the film are to me. It’s weird, nobody thinks the shit you think. That’s why movies are so great because we can all come together.
WM: And movies can all evoke so many different things. Like the guy in the audience who asked what you were trying to say with the movie. You made a movie, had to go through the journey of making it, even if you never watch it, what YOU are taking away is the experience of making it. It’s interesting that you bring that up that you feel lonely is that the film felt autobiographical. The Girl looks similar to you.
ALA: Shiela (Vand) and I were joking, because my hair’s really short and her hair has grown out and she was saying how she thought everyone would think that I wrote and directed and edited and starred in it. She was saying I should have cut my hair! (laughs)
WM: It felt like there was more emotional vampirism going on in the film, that it was just about trying to find connections.
ALA: They’re the loneliest. They’re like a serial killer and like a romantic. They are destructive and soft and gentle at the same time. Sometimes I think I’m very self destructive and nice at the same time.
WM: When I do find vampire movies that I like, they emphasize how these characters are going to be what they are and what they look like forever. These are movies that are full of characters who aren’t trying to destroy the universe or whatever, they’re just trying to sustain their life because they’re stuck with it. Whether it be finding connections with other people, or–
ALA: Finding a skateboard.
WM: Or finding a skateboard and riding around. Or sucking blood out of jerks when they’re acting like jerks. Those are the good vampires.
ALA: It’s weird too, because, somebody said something to me about how The Girl is avenging the prostitute and protecting the prostitutes, and it’s funny, because I think prostitution is cool. I’ve got no problem with it. I got invited to do a women in film panel and I said no. I’m afraid of all that stuff. People ask questions that they know what they want you to answer.
WM: Right, they want you to speak on behalf of all female directors.
ALA: I’m a female director, and I think it’s just as arbitrary as being a director from Ohio. I can’t speak to what it’s like to be a female director. I’m other things. What if you’re a director whose dad beat you? What about those directors? There should just be a panel for directors who were abused as children. You know?
WM: Because that would make just as much sense to group directors together like that. “This director was born with these chromosomes so let’s get them on a panel to talk what that’s like.”
ALA: It’s fine though. I was afraid of that panel. This morning’s panel, those dudes, it was just movies.
WM: Music is another thing that you mentioned, something that you’re so crazy into. You said you had almost three hours worth of music that you wanted to incorporate into your movie. What kind of music were you cutting from the movie? My favorite scenes in your films were when The Girl was just alone in her room putting on synth-pop. Those shots could have gone on for another two or three minutes if it meant I got to hear more music. What did you cut?
ALA: There was soooo much more, it was really long. There was way more spaghetti western stuff, more Federale stuff. Their stuff is amazing. White Lies is a big, big group, but the rest of the music was just small, independent people, so I love the idea of the soundtrack being out, which we will put out eventually.
WM: When that topic came up during the panel this morning and the importance of the music in film, I love seeing this resurgence of a film’s score being something that people want to get. Not necessarily like back in the 90’s where you just got the popular musicians of the time to contribute singles, but filmmakers are putting more effort into what people are hearing and the fans connect with that. Death Waltz records is getting the scores from all these older films to release.
ALA: It’s cool to have many ways to give people something.
WM: When you were in there talking about music, you mentioned Die Antwoord–
ALA: UGH, I LOVE Ninja. I’m obsessed with them. He was my muse for Saeed.
WM: That’s what I thought. I have only seen a picture or two of Ninja and I sat there thinking it was actually him, that there wasn’t some other guy with shitty scratched in tattoos.
ALA: We made our own tattoos, based on who Saeed was, and Dom (Dominic Rains), the actor, wanted to put into it. The one thing is that if you look that intense, the hair, the tattoos, the tooth, and all this shit, it’s easy to feel like a mega bad guy and get really gnarly and become just bad. I told Dom to watch all ten seasons of Friends and that Saeed loves Friends and that Ross is his favorite character. He was like watching Friends all during pre-production.
WM: The scenes where Saeed’s not talking, you could have easily thrown out gangster phrases but it wouldn’t have felt like a real person. It’s those moments when he’s not talking or starts dancing around when you realize he’s a real guy. So Ninja was a partial inspiration?
ALA: I want to put Die Antwoord’s music in my next movie. I almost have the soundtrack complete for my next movie.