It’s hard to pinpoint just when exactly I realized how much I really loved Under the Silver Lake, David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to It Follows. Ranked with a roughly split 50% or so score on Rotten Tomatoes, its divisive nature is easy to understand just as its genre classification is easy to confuse. A neo-noir old Hollywood/modern day sexy whodunnit? Sure. A mysterious comedy of coincidence and youth erring on the side of error? I would say so. Los Angeles and the wannabe forever young that inhabit it all come off vapid and fake usually and most often in media, but Silver Lake reveals with brute honesty this fact in silly but serious tones. And somehow, it’s made all the more fun and digestible.
While difficult as a whole, the challenging nature of Silver Lake pays off by the end, even after feeling the length of its dreamy and complicated narrative. A young unemployed man (Andrew Garfield) becomes infatuated with a female neighbor who, after one chance encounter, goes missing. Sleuthing around L.A., one thing leads to another leads to several other threads, some red-herrings while others are linear and others still are subtextual. All the while various ingenues, femme-fatale likes, manic pixie girls and the like visit upon him in differing states of affection and undress. Tempting as they may be (and often does he succumb most willingly), they represent not obstacles for him but how he sees the world from his movie poster adorned apartment.
Silver Lake could be compared to the works of Hitchcock (of which many references are found), but I’d like to offer up two specific influences: Kiss Me Deadly and 8 ½. In Deadly, a detective follows the trail of a dangerous object with many a woman getting in the way. Here though, Garfield’s millennial amateur investigator and all-around deadbeat bohemian isn’t really the forceful type you’d expect, at least not usually in a physical way. Forceful in an entitlement way, yes. He peeps on women, breaks into homes, and treats the city as his own open-world video game. Lackadaisical as he may appear, there is an aggression in him as it relates to the world. Aggression towards what is owed to him and what he wants or deserves.
Still, he’s fairly likable, believe it or not.
Under the Silver Lake has a David Lynch by way of nostalgic for “old” Hollywood and apologetic sentiment for “new” Hollywood type atmosphere. Old and New are in quotations, as the movie emphasizes just how much of a facade culture really is or, at least, that it wants us to believe it’s a facade. An enigma on top of an enigma, contradicting and solving itself at once. That’s quite the feat for any director, and even more of one for any moviegoer to sit through and enjoy. While I wish to state just how entertaining this film is, I would be mistaken to not mention how watching this is like going through a gauntlet. It’s no high school quiz but you could be worn out and brain fried come the end of it all.
Paranoia strengthened by spectacularly vivid and motion-filled cinematography, whispy and uber-detailed writing that imagines the epicenter of reel dreams to be connected in more ways than one and for better or worse, Under the Silver Lake is the cult surprise we wait for every year.
And that moment when I knew how much I loved this? When a man is pushed off a toilet, revealing gold covered waste in the bowl, never to be mentioned again.
Alchemy, this is.
RATING: 5 / 5
Under the Silver Lake screens at Chalmette Movies starting this weekend, for a one-week engagement.