If you haven’t watched A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (now streaming on Netflix! yet, you’re missing out. It’s an elegant mashup pastiche of spaghetti westerns, Jarmush, Lynch, Fellini, and Tarantino. It’s set in Bad City, a nowhere U.S. western town where you expect to see Tom Waits on every street corner. The opening shots are lingering wide-scope love affairs with the consumptive splendor of oil production, machine vampires in their own right.
Everyone speaks Farsi in this hungry, lonely place and a girl vampire (Sheila Vand) hides under a cape-like chador while she skateboards down the darkened dusty streets. She is The Threat disguised as The Threatened. She seeks out, in her cool steadiness, only victims who have transgressed in some way, who trade in malice. And she’s not just hiding a righteous bloodthirst under her chador, she’s hiding other forbidden things. She lives in a Rock-n-Roll den and pairs her black chador with a Breton striped shirt, a symbol of hip that transcends the decades.
The shots are breathtaking, the music is intoxicating, but the cat, played by the film’s producer’s cat Masuka, takes over when he appears, charging a bewitching energy throughout the entire movie.
Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour, an American with Iranian immigrant parents, said she almost didn’t cast this particular feline in the production. That would have been a huge misstep because Masuka not only stole the show, he ended up making some of the creative decisions.
“The cat is a gangster! The gangster star in the movie,” Amirpour told Film Comment. “I was so worried that this was going to be the hardest part. It was Sina’s cat, my producer. Really early on I was auditioning other cats, and he was like, why don’t you give my cat a shot? And I was like, he’s too fat, he’s not right, he’s not good-looking enough. And then I met him and he was really good, so calm, so chill—he behaves like a dog almost. And then we did some tests and I thought, OK, he’s the cat, but then he was just beyond. In some scenes he would just be like: ‘No, no, this is what we’re doing.’ He was always awesome, always doing something special. He had great ideas. It’s so weird to say that. He’d just be like: ‘No coverage, no cutting, one shot, let’s just do it like this.'”
As for what the cat represents, he seems to have a mission for doom, and for love. A Girl Who Walks Home Alone is also part love story and the cat is the catalyst for a potential pairing of hope. However, the future is uncertain, the cat may just be setting up another bloodletting.
FUN FACT: When this film was initially released in 2014, it had a companion graphic novel called “Death is the Answer.”