“Jesus and the Brides of Dracula. Hipster pirate. Topless bird-lover. Paddleboat stalking. Literally barking mad women. Hobo king with a cardboard crown.” The notes that I scrawled while watching Under The Silver Lake at its North American Premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival look like the scribbles of a madman. That madman is writer/director David Robert Mitchell, who won wild praise for his art-house horror hit It Follows, and now has returned with a wildly ambitious, unapologetically bizarre, and intriguingly polarizing stoner-noir.
Out of its Cannes world premiere, Under The Silver Lake divided critics. Some accused it of sexism, as well as lacking tension or emotional depth. Others compared it favorably to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, a critically adored film that I personally loathed. And as It Follows underwhelmed me, I entered the theater with a low-boil sense of dread, prepared to sit down for a 2-hour and 20-minute movie I suspected I’d hate. But something magical happened as I watched the unfurling of a madcap and macabre tale of an amateur detective on the search for a missing blond bombshell. I was confused, uncomfortable, revolted, then laughing, aghast, and ultimately enthralled. I write this review the morning after in a kind of afterglow. Few movies are as willfully absurd as Under The Silver Lake, and I fell hard for its spell.
Andrew Garfield stars as Sam, a natural disaster in human form. Squatting in a posh Silver Lake apartment, this unemployed and ambition-less stoner is on the brink of being evicted. But rather than scrounging for “work” — a word he regards with abject disdain — Sam focuses on Sarah (Riley Keough), a dreamy blonde whose sudden disappearance throws this paranoid vagabond into an outrageous quest, meandering through shady casting calls, painfully hip parties, trippy secret shows, and curious underground tunnels. Along the way he’ll come across wealthy old men mad with power, young men hungry for mystique, and a seemingly endless stream of gorgeous women whose bodies are offered up like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
To read the rest of Puchko’s review, go to Riot Material magazine: https://www.riotmaterial.com/under-the-silver-lake-love-letter-hollywood/
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