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With ‘Bad Batch,’ Amirpour brings strangeness back to cinema

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Jason Momoa and Suki Waterhouse appear in “The Bad Batch.” (Courtesy Neon)
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Filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour is almost singlehandedly bringing back something to art house cinema that has gone missing: a sense of the unusual.

“You swear that sometimes you’re an island in the desert,” she said during a recent interview at the Alamo Drafthouse. “It’s hard to fight to do strange things in this time.”

Amirpour’s black-and-white, Persian-language, vampire-Western “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” was a must-see among hardcore cinephiles; her worthy follow-up is the incredible “The Bad Batch.”

“The Bad Batch” follows Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), who is deposited in a desert wasteland, a place for societal outcasts.

She quickly loses an arm and a leg to cannibals, and meets an array of misfits, played by Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Diego Luna, Giovanni Ribisi, and — in an awesome, wordless performance — Jim Carrey.

Amirpour’s screenplays are deliberately mysterious, never offering much explanation. “I’m 30 percent hard of hearing, so my whole life I’ve heard less of the conversations going on around me, and as a result, retreated into my own world,” she says.

“I’m also paying attention to the physical space I’m in, the way it feels, the actual experience of being places,” she continues. “I do like to find a way to feel it, rather than just say it. We don’t always walk around explaining everything.”

Her background also contributes to her world view. Her parents are from Iran. She was born in London and raised in Florida. She attended college at San Francisco State University and now resides in Los Angeles.

“Things become more and more mixed, from cultures and information to race and politics to everything,” she says. “I also always felt separate from every group. I don’t think that you have to be an immigrant or multi-national to feel like that.”

The wide open, outlaw, desert spaces of “The Bad Batch” were inspired by everything from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “El Topo” to classic Hollywood Westerns.

Amirpour says she always wanted to shoot in the desert with anamorphic lenses. For some shots, she used a “hot plate,” which causes a shimmery look in front of the image. “I did it on several shots. I wanted to do it all the time, but you can’t. I like things to be real.”

Amirpour loves all kinds of movies, and she even enjoys a good superhero movie, but in her own storytelling she chooses not to define who is good and who is bad.

“Then everyone gets let off the hook. So I think it’s cool to keep people on the hook,” she pauses and laughs a sinister laugh. “On a meathook!”


IF YOU GO

The Bad Batch
Starring Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey
Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
Rated R
Running time 1 hour, 58 minutes

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