Under the Silver Lake (2018)

David Robert Mitchell directs Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Grace Van Patten in this L.A. set slacker mystery set around missing girls, secret symbols, wealthy conspiracies and THE DOG KILLER.

This opened to awful reviews and got buried in a very limited release. As Mitchell’s follow-up to It Follows it is raggedly loose where his horror breakthrough was iron tight, with a less easily likeable protagonist where as that film gave us Maika Monroe in a pleasing final girl mode. Both however share a beautiful creepiness, an unashamed male gaze and unfathomable curses. What might have stopped this unclassifiable film from gaining popularity is its length and lack of resolution.

Garfield’s horny loser opens up many cans of worms… there’s at least five different Fortean intrigues that pull at his attention… some crawl into each others’ cans neatly, others wiggle off unexplained and a few just takeover the story leaving more questions than answers. If there is any point to it all by the end credits, it is maybe that Garfield’s meandering detective should be getting his life in order and maturing rather than wasting his time on secret codes and retroactive stalking. We all need to grow up and give less of a shit about old pop culture and passing fancies.

Yet the joy of the film is exploring him – and us – making connections. Some are easy movie buff references. Rebel Without a Cause, Zodiac, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Great Gatsby and many other classics are winkinly stolen from. Other are self contained. A Playboy cover, a ‘signed’ Nirvana poster, a hobo symbol, an antique cereal packet, a balloon girl… all are introduced then echo visually throughout the haphazard journey. Whether it be pairing up obtuse images or joining narrative dots between quirky characters who vy for his and our attention. Some are quirky hipster wannabes, others Lovecraftian threats.

I’ve only watched this once but I got lost in a deep, rich, often surreal piece of cinema that felt like it demanded repeat viewings. As a man, and we all know our faults as a gender, I found it very arousing, as a cinema buff I found it self aware and playful. Sure, it would have been easier for Mitchell to tie off his wavering obsessions in a neat bow, or to shift completely into a familiar genre like psychological horror or neo-noir by the third act. But instead it sits like an awesome puzzle, showcasing a lesser seen side of sleazy Hollywood, a brave and subtle performance by Garfield (his best so far) and lots of beautiful starlets in strangely erotic situations. Some sequences will do nothing for you, others (like our meeting with THE SONGWRITER) stay with you creepily like Lynch’s or The Coens’ best enigmas. Either way, this is distinctive, idiosyncratic auteur filmmaking, the kind cults are born from.


My Top 10 L.A. Movies

1. True Romance (1993)
2. The Terminator (1984)

3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
4. Die Hard (1988)
5. Blade Runner (1982)
6. Speed (1994)
7. Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
8. Lethal Weapon (1987)
9. Falling Down (1993)
10. LaLa Land (2016)

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