The narrative styles from Hollywood films (Film Criticism

The emergence of art
cinema entered the world of film just after the Second World War, it prevailed
when the decline of Hollywood Cinema was dropping, since then, various New
Waves such as the French, Japanese and Italian was introduced all over the
European continent in the late 1950s and 60s (Bordwell, 1985: 230). Art
Cinema films  are known as films that are
marginalized, low-costing, and artistic which often differs from Hollywood’s
“classical narrative”, it differs in a sense that it does not follow an
imagined cinematic mainstream based on a “classical model (linear cause-effect narration,
non-intrusive style)” and “high concept (simple
storytelling, easily marketable idea)”. Art Cinema’s initial popularity is
often associated with great auteurs such as Fellini, Godard, Antonioni, and
Bergman as they created what is known as “authorial expression” by opposing
classical structures of Hollywood film. An example of an art Cinema film in the
past would be “Bicycle Thieves (1948)”
and another good example of contemporary art cinema would be “A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night
(2014)”. David Bordwell discusses art Cinema as a Mode of Film practice,
how it tends to differentiate the narrative styles from Hollywood films
(Film Criticism 4
p.56–63.) Steve Neale talks about Art Cinema as an institution which
explores the history of art cinema in the post-war development of art
cinema. (Screen 22,
1981: p.11–39.)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at
Night by Ana Lily Amipour is an Iranian film based in “Bad City”, it follows
Arash, a young man who lives with his father, whom is a drug addict. Throughout
the movie, we see Arash transform into a caring, young adult, into an
emotionless drug dealer, along the way he meets a woman, oblivious to the fact
that she is a vampire. The diegesis then turns into a twisted love story
between the two characters. The movie is a black and white picture film that
adopts a comedic horror genre in which gender and class stereotypes are
challenged and subverted, it goes against stereotypical gender roles by placing
the female character in a role where she is feared and made the men more
submissive which challenged not only Hollywood’s classical narrative, but also
everyday sexism within the film industry. 
The movie does an excellent job of juxtaposing its culture to that of
Hollywood cinema and pulling away from Hollywood canons whilst still being very

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Realism is an important
feature of art cinema. Bordwell (Art
Cinema as Mode of Film Practise, p.718) suggests “the art cinema defines
itself as a realistic cinema” using “real locations” and “real problems” as a
way to oppose Hollywood canons. Julian Petley also points out the same idea
that “the mise-en-scene in art cinema may emphasise verisimilitude of behaviour
and of space: for instance the utilisaiton of real locations and
non-professional actors in neo-realist films” (Petley 1999: 108). A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night uses real
locations such as outside and indoors due to art cinema film budget being low
in comparison to Hollywood films, this effect allows a more realistic visual
impact. The film also relates to real problems such as gender exploitation,
prostitution and drugs which is commonly associated with those of a lower
class, however it also highlighted the side of the lower class where children
are without shelter and left on the streets, this is seen when Sheila Vand (the
vampire) confronts a little kid on the street in a frightening manner. A
close-up is shown of her in an angry, hostile expression which is very
suggestive and symbolic, the close up allows the audience to see the darkness
of her the darkness she brings creating tension and presence. This relates to
art cinema, more specifically Steve Neale’s quote “Art films tend to be marked
by stress on visual style” (Neale 1981 :
13), as it focuses on stylistic excess (visual and aural) rather than
narrative and beyond
that which is strictly required to advance the narrative, juxtaposed against
Hollywood’s entertainment and commerce. As the movie first begins, we see Arash
stealing a cat and bringing it home without a reason, and throughout the movie
the cat does nothing but accompany the characters in the film, this is an
example of a restricted narrative. As art cinema is less tied to Hollywood
films, it caused an enigmatic effect (Barthe theory), allowing audiences to see
a different side of creativity in art cinema. It also allows audiences to see
clarity, simplicity (Hollywood) versus ambiguity, complexity (Art cinema).

Bordwell states that “the art cinemas is classical in its reliance upon psychological
causation: characters and their effects on one another remain central… the
characters of art cinema lack defined and desired goals”. In Arash’s case
we see his personality advance differently from the beginning of the movie. At
first he works, trying to provide for his sick father, later in the film he
progresses to be a drug dealer, leaving his father and giving him no remorse,
stealing from other people such as a diamond earring and the money from a dead
character which Vand kills, we are unsure what Arash does with the things he
steals, however, as he caught feelings for the vampire, he presented her with
the stolen earrings for her to wear. When Arash’s father dies by the hands of
Vand, Arash has a mental breakdown, and even till the end, he doesn’t know that
the killer is the woman he loves. It tells the audience that the film is a
creative, yet weird love story between two misfits who evidently shouldn’t be
together. We are also unsure of what intentions or goals the Vampire has. The
first crime scene we saw was Vand stalking a pimp who is high on drugs. This
allowed her to take advantage of his sexual gratification, she shifts her
action and seduces him, and he doesn’t understand who she is or what she is
until it was too late for him, he dies a horrible death and the girl walks out
empty handed, again we are unsure of what her intentions are which reinforces
Bordwell’s statement of “lack defined and
desired goals”. This also relates to
“in terms of subject matter… the art film tends to deal with real contemporary
problems such as ‘alienation’ or ‘lack of communication'” (Petley 1999:108, following Bordwell, 1985) as in the film, there
is little communication amongst the characters, instead, Amirpour relies on her
visionary force as a filmmaker, with massive payoff in the end. The theme of
alienation is also true to this movie, we see Arash, and his father, separate, and
they both live in a town, filled with bad vibes and isolation. The movie
tackles real contemporary problems such as the real-world issues of prejudice
and how some men mistreat women. Amirpour creates an immortal vampire to spread
the message of feminism, it allows audiences to question their preconceived

Steve Neale states that “Art films tend to be marked…
by a suppression of action in the Hollywood sense, by a consequent stress on
character rather than plot and by an interiorisation of dramatic conflict”
(Neale 1981:13-14). This statement easily relates to the movie as Amirpour
creates a character (Arash) who faces a significant crisis in his life. She
places the character in a “boundary position, which is common in art cinema
narration… the boundary situation is the centre around which conventions of
psychological realism begin to work” (K.
Courtney, 2011 p.176 European Culture in Diversity). For example, in the
movie the crisis begins when Arash steals money from the pimp and leaves his
father to look after himself. This crisis motivates the protagonist to express
their mental state and allows audiences to pay attention to his emotional
reactions rather than storyline.

Bordwell suggests “The art cinema developed a range of mise-en-scene
cues for expressing character mood: static pictures, covert glances…
emotion-filled landscapes” (Bordwell, 1985:208).
A strong example within the film of these landscapes is the horizon of the sky
and land at night, this stylistic approach is to resemble the isolation and
emptiness of the ghost town, but also to represent Vand, the vampire. It emphasises
her dark presence and her that her action to address feminism is free. Another
good example of the landscape is the industrial setting. Shots of oil rigs
pumping black gold are carefully placed. The oil rig is symbolic to Vand. It is
a connotation that Vand is trying to remove darkness from the city by
eliminating how dark men can be, just like how oil rigs remove oil from the
ground.  An example of static pictures
and covert glances would be in Vand’s bedroom. She leads Arash there while he
is high on drugs staring at the light, the vampire plays a song “Death” by
White Lies and as the song plays in the background, Arash creeps up behind the
girl, she then slowly turns around and looks as if she is going to bite his
neck, but instead he gently places her head on his chest, all happening at a
snail’s pace (Jon Lisi, 2015). This
scene was static for a good 30-1 minute time frame which allows audiences to
feel more connected to the characters. This all relates to art cinema as it
focuses more on scenery and character, a convention of art cinemas.

In conclusion art cinema is something different to
watch, it goes against Hollywood Film conventions which is not common for
people to watch, thus making it quite challenging. It focuses more on
creativity and art, rather than entertainment and commerce. This film, which is
very unpredictable yet beautiful is more about emotional reaction and
atmosphere than narrative. Amirpour uses stylistic devices and realism to
define art cinema in her perspective. Show tries to address the message of
feminism, and uses Vand as a social context to get the message across that drug,
prostitution and most importantly how some women are treated in today’s society.  “There is something greater and deeper to art
cinema, than marketability” (J.v.Dole
p.5) this quote summarizes what the category of art cinema is. From the
perspective of Amirpour, art cinema for her was not for commercial profit, she
looked beyond that and let her passion drive her art such as her inspiration
from David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977).
There are certain things that film directors do that cannot be measured with
money but with passion.