Cannes 2018: David Robert Mitchell plunges into the heart of Los Angeles in “Under the Silver Lake”

The long and improbable investigation of a young man in search of love in a timeless Los Angeles. This is the story of Sam, a thirty-something American living in Hollywood but doing nothing. We learn that a dog killer is rife in the city, a celebrity LA is the victim of kidnapping.

Sam sees a pretty girl by her pool. He does not sleep with her. The next morning, when he comes home as agree, there is nothing left in the apartment of the beautiful. If not a mysterious cabalistic sign paint on a wall. Sam then launches an investigation that no one has ask him to lead. He does not know yet in what galley he embarks. The third film by David Robert MItchell (after especially It follows, his second). That is a rather strange film: the meeting on a dissection table of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch and Jacques Rivette.

Present at the last Cannes Film Festival. The second film by American director David Robert Mitchell examines the influence of the entertainment industry on pop culture.

A brilliant dive into the Hollywood psyche that suffers from too many references.

It’s no coincidence that the plot of the film is set in Silver Lake. This neighborhood of Los Angeles was built around the first silent film studios. Before being abandon for more green hills and becoming one of those residential suburbs. Where live a poor and trendy population, left behind the Hollywood dream , living meager pills unhook in second-rate films.

This is only the first piece of the puzzle in which David Robert Mitchell, a young American filmmaker of 44 years old and new figure of the independent cinema, leads us with this hallucinatory and ultra-reference polar. Which owes more on the side of David Lynch than the genre film.

The film describes a long wandering and multiple meetings in a Los Angeles certainly sunny but disturbing, funny too, a series of spinning mills in the underworld of cinema, television, politics and the new age. The film blithely flirts with the 70s (we think of Robert Altman’s Private): the girls are beautiful, naked and all a little similar … And yet it’s good today that he claims to speak.

Sam will discover the springs of a plot that is not really one (it’s the Rivette side). On the Hitchcock side, we are in FenĂȘtre sur cour (for voyeurism and the search for the truth of images), and Vertigo (the perfect woman impossible to find, if not in the imagination, and the fascination for urban legends). With, as common point with many movies this year in Cannes, that it is decidedly impossible to find a place to live happily on this Earth …

It is there, on the edge of the vast reservoir that feeds Los Angeles

That Sam (Andrew Garfield), a 33-year-old dilettante. Who has also dreamed of becoming someone before she resolves to be nothing. He spends his days on his balcony drinking beer and watching the young starlets who bask in the pool, waiting for his notice of expulsion. Then, in an exact remake of the famous pool scene of Marilyn Monroe’s latest unfinish film, Sarah (Riley Keough), her pretty neighbor, immediately falls in love.

While it evaporates overnight, he decides to go looking for him, intrigue by a strange cabalistic sign left on the wall of his apartment. He then takes us on a mysterious quest made of codes and messages hidden in the hit songs or video games. That crossing on his way false stars and followers of the conspiracy theory, in a neighborhood that lives in terror of a dog killer.

Andrew Garfield plays Sam, a stoner somehow living in a hipster neighbourhood in LA, without a job but with an apartment and a car he can’t pay for. When he’s not spying on women, he spends his time pursuing arcane mysteries and he is fascinated by mysterious goings in the district, including the disappearance of a local mogul, inexplicable dog-killings, and the crackpot theories of a comic-book writer.

He falls for a beautiful young woman next door, Sarah (Riley Keough)

Sarah walks around in a white bikini with her little dog and spends an evening with her. But the next day she has disappeared and her apartment has been empty.

So Sam sets off on an occult quest to find out what has happen to her. Following hidden messages in lyrics and a secret map in a cereal box, eventually uncovering a vast conspiracy and a preposterous explanation of what has happen to Sarah. A cult pursues eternal life by sealing the enormously rich in chambers deep beneath Silver Lake with willing girls. Of course.

So this is the Hollywood dream consuming its dreamers once more. There’s a good scene when Sam breaks into the mansion of a fabulously rich songwriter. Who jeeringly tells him that actually he wrote all of the pop culture Sam cares so much about and “it’s all silly and it’s all meaningless”, a thought Sam finds so intolerable he explodes into violence. Otherwise, this is a tiresomely self-regarding story that not even Garfield’s allure can enliven.

INFO:

Rating: R (for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language throughout and some drug use)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: David Robert Mitchell
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace
Written By: David Robert Mitchell
In Theaters: Apr 19, 2019 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 18, 2019
Runtime: 139 minutes
Studio: A24

Ty Burr
If a talented filmmaker opening the throttle of his imagination as wide as it can go appeals to you, you should give “Under the Silver Lake” a look.

Adam Graham
That makes this quintessentially Los Angeles tale a frustrating viewing experience, but its open-endedness will help it rally a cult-like following of believers.

James Berardinelli
Despite all the devilishly clever moments, freaky episodes, and general weirdness, Under the Silver Lake is ultimately unsatisfying.

Chris Sawin
Becoming entangled in this crazy spider’s web of a conspiracy is more interesting than living a boring existence. Sam makes the most out of nothing. Under the Silver Lake is a spellbinding enigma of a film that is equally stimulating as it is mystifying.

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