Cinematic Companions: An Iranian Vampire & An Argentinian She-Wolf
Two female-directed, black-and-white odysseys of alluring, predatory she-creatures demand your attention…
To distinguish between possible coincidence and genuinely discovering cinematic kinship is important, as the nature of festival viewing makes the critical mind eager to notice thematic through line. For instance, on my last day at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival, three films back-to-back-to-back featured scenes centered on urination, two of which saw said streams make contact with other people than the originator. I’ve yet to work out whether they’re joining a surging cinematic pee party, but it’s likely thad all three screened separately , outside of the festival and any sort of succession, I’d put less emphasis on the piss.
On the other hand, months away from two separate festival viewings, which were months apart themselves, I can’t stop thinking of two films indicative of both emerging talent and a similar place of thought. Disregarding the pee, this is to say: there’s something going on with female-directed black-and-white odysseys of alluring, predatory she-creatures.
Breaking out of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Ana Lily Amirpour’s A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (pictured, above) found much deserved acclaim as a swooning, lush story in which a vampire in a fictional Iranian city of bad men alternately stalks her prey and finds true connection and affection in a young rebel. Sadly, Tamae Garateguy’s Buenos Aires-based SHE WOLF found comparatively little fanfare out of its major U.S. showing at Austin’s Fantastic Fest in September 2013. The former may be decidedly more romantic in its hangout structure, hypnotic style and fuzzy tone, but the all together rougher experience of SHE WOLF is no less thrilling. Similarly, it finds a titular female stalker seducing and murdering her way through through a dangerous city while juggling infatuation with a young rebel. Both films are united in their monochrome exploration of marginalized women perceived as monstrous, and both are remarkable in doing so.
It’s interesting that A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, the more optimistic of the two, presents itself as less “real.” It’s a film in love with film, firmly placed in a filmic world. The aesthetics of Bad City and its inhabitants are often recognizable as stylistic nods and inherently cinematic. It’s a film inspired and eventually looking to inspire, positing that through culture (pop and not), we can sort through the terribleness that surrounds us and have something meaningful; despite some of us being vampires and others having junkie fathers. And eventually, we won’t look at an assured woman in a chador as something “other.”
SHE WOLF, while aligning its lead with the concept of a fantastical creature, bases itself in Buenos Aires and a rawer depiction of life. The two films have their women degraded and devalued by a slate of shitty men, but Garateguy’s picture is a more graphic one. Garateguy employs handheld, punk rock visuals and an aggressive, erotic, violent atmosphere. It’s also quite sly. There’s little that’s identifiably monstrous about the being at the center of SHE WOLF. She transforms, yes, but merely alters her physicality and personality so that it appears three separate women reside in one. By using the convention of a stalker or a beast, the viewer quickly classifies the She Wolf as something difficult to decipher; Again, something “other.” Really, she’s simply a woman, a whole person who can all at once be sultry and overtly sexual and aggressive and gentle and sweet and jealous and a bitch.
In both films, they’re of course murderers as well, but by shrouding their leads in villainous context but empathetic roles, Amirpour and Garateguy reveal by contrast just how aggressive and demeaning daily life can be towards women. The filmmakers can transform their leads into literal monsters, and they’ll still seem less evil than the leering, violent, verbally abusive and sexually presumptuous men who persecute them. That’s not to mention both are electrifying to watch. The Iranian Vampire and the She Wolf are rarely downtrodden or beaten back. They are gutsy, confident characters, poised to get what they want.
Ultimately The Girl, of A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, is able to wade through the evil of Bad City and escape with a partner while the She Wolf is consumed by fury and vitriol, doing away with the many layers she encompassed and now forced to play one role. Though She Wolf and the Iranian Vampire become anti-heroic in sense, they diverge by each respective film’s end. The Iranian-American and Argentinian productions are cinematic companions at the opposite ends of their common ground, as if one is idealistic and the other a cautionary tale.