REVIEW: The Bad Batch

21 06 2017

Fantastic Fest

I watched Ana Lily Amirpour’s “The Bad Batch” late at night as the fifth movie in a single day at Fantastic Fest – and there was still one after it – so my grasp on its granular details is admittedly not as strong as usual. Yet experiencing the film in a state of altered consciousness where I had to fight against my body’s impulses to understand what was happening in front of my eyes feels oddly fitting.

“The Bad Batch” unfolds in a richly textured dystopian Texan wasteland where even the crows do battle. The authorities leave the condemned Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) to fend herself in this wasteland where she almost immediately becomes aware of its perils after a group of cannibals take her arm. Talk about initiation by fire!

From there, the film follows Arlen’s search for revenge and answers in the unforgiving territory. But Amirpour’s interests do not lie in mere plot progression. She’s all about exploring textures, details and atmospheres – far more than in the flat, staged tableaus of her debut “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.” The film amounts to more than just a series of thematically interconnected music videos. “The Bad Batch” is a sustained two-hour trip, wildly unpredictable, utterly gonzo yet completely controlled. I’ll have to revisit it in a more composed state of mind, although a part of me does wonder if that will tinker with its delicate chemistry. B+ /

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REVIEW: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

25 01 2015

A Girl Walks HomeWith “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night,” writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour fuses together elements into a hybrid that likely never occurred to anyone else.  Her vampire film incorporates the western, the film noir, and tons of hipster cred (look no further than the vinyl records) – with dialogue spoken in Persian.  It’s essentially the best Sofia Coppola movie that Sofia Coppola didn’t make.

Amirpour’s film constantly exudes an ambience of coolness, which makes the experience mostly fun to absorb even when it gets dull to watch.  Like Coppola, she often falls into the trap of excessive stylization, especially when a killer tune is playing.  “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” thus often feels like a compilation of thematically related music videos.  The flesh-eating skateboarding girl simply seems to appear as a recurring character amidst the sea of drug dealers, prostitutes, junkies, strange old men, and curious kids.

Amirpour also has one heck of a strength to make the movie mostly work regardless: her exacting control.  Her eye for clean, classical visuals is remarkable.  In addition, she and cinematographer Lyle Vincent play with light and shadow with fitting and appropriate grace given the film’s theme of concealed identity.  While her directorial debut might boast all the style of a cult indie classic, it possesses the marginal storytelling of a student short overly obsessed with mood.  The combination leaves a little to be desired, though it certainly is not all bad nor a waste of time by any stretch of the imagination.  B-2stars