3 out of 5
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Saw the trailer for The Bad Batch, thought it was awesome. Who the Hell is this Ana Lily lady, and how the hell did I overlook her previous film, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night?
So I procured said debut, then started considering a rare leavamce of my house to go see Bad Batch. …And then the reviews rolled in; and then the interviews and press rolled in. I am pretty good at separating personality from a production, but maybe moreso when it’s an actor, as they’re theoretically (generally) representing someone else’s point of view. But the director is more of a representative of the material; even a “faceless” director could be said to shape things due to their work-for-hire functionality. Lily’s public persona seems rather abrasive, and ignorant, and immature, and besides the fact that that maybe tainted some reviews of Bad Batch, it became difficult to separate that representation from how one might perceive some of the film’s themes. I decided to try my best to reserve judgment until I’d actually watched one of her movies… and so on to Girl.
I live in New York. If I head into the city, particularly the college-y areas, or the hipper parts of Brooklyn or Queens, I will undoubtedly see some clearly hip people with cameras, snapping pics of what they deem to be picturesque things. And likely if I followed their instagrams, I’d find a proliferation of artsy snaps. While this type of person undoubtedly exists all over, I suspect there’s a higher density of them here; listen in on any given conversation or follow those digital feeds, and you’ll likely hear/see references to their inspirations, or explanations of what they’re trying to capture. Is this stereotype I’m outlining capable of having inspirations and opinions? Of course. But hopefully without getting too fuddy-duddy about things, the availability of affordable tech to take those instagrammed pics and the million and one blogs where you can tweet your spur-of-the-moment opinion on the Hot Topic du Jour has made a greater percentage of these hipster inspirations and opinions… seem hollow. The logic is fair, I think: Not everyone is an expert; not everyone is a genius; not everyone is an ace filmmaker. When the pursuit of wisdom or skill wasn’t a wiki link or iPhone away, the pool of any given grouping was, Id think, smaller. But now we can all watch foreign classics on Netflix (or read the wiki summary while it streams in the background); google for an opinion to support our own. The pool of “I’m a filmmaker,” or “I’m a writer” grows; on the one hand, people who may not have had the ability to make it into the public eye get their shot now, but on the other hand, the growing participation list most certainly does not equal a relative percentage of geniuses.
I mentioned the excessive number of artsy hipsters in NY because maybe it makes me overly-sensitive to this archetype, and the – as I judge it – naivety of their expressions. But guess what? I don’t give a fuck that you’re an active tweeter on the Occupy site, or that you’ve memorized Pulp Fiction, or that you can rattle off a list of reasons why film is superior to digital. Instead, why don’t you aet aside the constant strutting and just make something?
And Lily did. I do see within A Girl this archetype I’ve just criticized. The film is end to end glitz: Pointlessly artsy shots; non-stop froo froo indie music; genre references. There about 1900 themes, none of which are developed beyond a single sentence. But she made a film. The general vision of it is undeniable, even if it doesn’t survive further scrutiny. And within her media brashness, you can sort of get that: Amirpour is someone who has opinions without explanation. Which is trouble in our hyper-aware culture nowadays, but at least, for Lily, via her camera, I feel like I’m not being preached to, which makes her debut watchable, and not boring.
This is fully acknowledging that it reeks of film school in terms of over-artifice; that it hardly exists beneath a surface veneer of posed questions and half-concepts. And that, were I to ask the director any question about the movie, I’d likely be frustrated by the response, or the lack of one. But as I’m currently watching the 18 hour dreamscape of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks redux, I’m thinking these impulses are, occasionally, what we praise in others.
This is me slaking through my bias (which I dragged you through above) to form, hopefully, a more balanced opinion. A Girl Walls Home Alone At Night is very vaguely a movie about a vampire, and very vaguely a meet-cute. Maybe it has some ideas about gender roles, or sexuality, or family. Maybe it just has some cool aesthetics, a funky soundtrack, and some really shlocky attempts at jump scares.
Bad Batch made me curious, but while this debut is an acceptable use of 90 minutes, it’s not sharp or notable enough to have made my curiosity go in the other direction.