In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.
Strange things are afoot in Bad City. The Iranian ghost town, home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps and other sordid souls, is a bastion of depravity and hopelessness where a lonely vampire stalks its most unsavory inhabitants. But when boy meets girl, an unusual love story begins to blossom… blood red.
Okayokay, Sundance loved it, critics loved it, artsy fartsy filmlovers loved it; AGWHAaN carries the exotic banner and does everything against the grain of what the audience would expect. In other words: A Great Great Movie!!! Right?
It took me quite some months before I gathered the nerves to write about AGWHAaN. How could it be that I had such a totally different impression of the movie from all the professional critics and experts? Have I turned blind or did they all fall for a mass psychosis? Had the film to be good at any price? Where politics at play here? In Hollywood? Naaaw, never. LØL! But I’m not Hollywood, I can write my honest opinion if you don’t mind. And if you do actually mind you can fuck straight off. So here goes:
I was so free and didn’t like AGWHAaN. There, I said it!
What is tagged so daringly and sexy as The first Iranian Vampire Western is for one a total fake. Yes, most of the actors and the director are American citizens of Iranian descendance but from what I hear their Farsi (yes, they speak Farsi for authenticity reasons) is so rusty and bad it mostly doesn’t even match the subtitles. The movie was filmed on location in California with American money, by an American production company and is as authentic as an original Bavarian beerfest in Pennsylvania. They’re not even trying to hide the fact that it’s fake. Because it’s the message that counts, right? Question is: What message?
But that’s technicalities and would be understandable for … reasons. You know, getting filming permit in Iran is maybe not as easy as in Hollywood’s neighborhood and running the risk of having half your crew beheaded by the sharia police might be another strong reason to film the movie in exile so to speak. Although Iran ain’t Saudi Arabia and is much more civil about such stuff. But no, afaik ALL involved actors and crew are American citizens. There is no danger of being hunted down by Iranian authorities and facing jail time or worse. They simply made a movie in their homeland – the USA -, nothing else. I guess the most convincing argument for not filming on location in Iran were budgetting concerns. Calling AGWHAaN an Iranian film was probably cooked up by the marketing department and we all know what that usually means: It’s a
Ok, the movie itself: Uh, err, hubby and me were left quite puzzled and at the same time bored outta our minds. It’s The Big Nothing. We have a vampire roaming the streets at night. These things happen. At least in movies about vampires. It’s system imminent in the vampire genre. Around her we see a sad circus of sad and bad people, people we don’t care about, that hold no special interest for us other than being perfect vampire fodder. There is no soul, no discernable dramatic curve or anything. The movie starts in a state of limbo and it ends nowhere. And it stays stone cold and robotic throughout its whole runtime. All style, no content.
Technically it’s quite well made. Filmed in trademark Jim Jarmusch black and white and stark settings, laconic, sparse, quiet, not much of dialogue. It’s actually quite beautiful. But on the other hand it all looks so copycatted, as if the director, Ana Lily Amirpour, was just crossing off a checklist for making an arthouse movie. Ya, she did it nicely but brought nothing new to the mix. We’ve seen all those same scenes done before and done better, for example by Jim Jarmusch. Even the music is so Jarmusch-y, it’s hilarious.
Conclusion: The road to hell is plastered with good intentions, as they say, and I’m not saying Ana Lily Amirpour didn’t have good intentions. Quite the contrary; she seems to be a quite eager little film student, majoring on the works of the great Jim Jarmusch. And she chose a participation at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival to present her doctor’s thesis so to speak. And she would have almost fooled us into believing we’ve watched a work of great depth and meaning. But Mrs. Amirpour made one major mistake; she was too obvious and didn’t try to hide her intentions of making a great piece of art. By ticking all the right boxes she totally forgot that it’s her film, a thing that has to stand on its own feet and not just on the shoulders of giants. She forgot to breathe some life into her project, some life of its own. Now AGWHAaN turned out to be a similar artificial creature to her vampire topic. AGWHAaN is a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie, a soulless monster, brought to life by science, not by artistic will.