Under The Silver Lake celebrated its North American premiere on July 19th with a sold-out screening at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival. The film has received some pretty mixed reviews since its world premiere at Cannes earlier this year, and will no doubt continue to see strong opinions on either side. Sadly, it’s these reactions that have lead A24 Films to push back the release to December and re-work the film.
The Fantasia audience was eager to see “the Cannes cut” before any changes were made, and if you have an opportunity to see Under The Silver Lake any time soon, I strongly urge you to do so. I can’t speak to what the movie will ultimately look like – but the version we saw last night is easily some of the most impressive pieces of modern film-making I’ve been fortunate enough to see.
“Under The Silver Lake is a hardboiled mystery that you will obsess over as though it were the blueprint for a perfect detective story.”
There is a dread and a true-to-life surrealism that makes Under The Silver Lake feel like a spiritual sequel to Blue Velvet or Inherent Vice. David Robert Mitchell borrows and reshapes elements from classics in a way that we thought only Quentin Taratino could get away with. The entire movie is a love letter to film, and an analysis on film culture, and will make you fall in love with every puzzling, paranoid moment. Under The Silver Lake is a hardboiled mysterythat you will obsess over as though it were the blueprint for a perfect detective story.
Under the Silver Lake follows Sam (Andrew Garfield), a directionless twenty-something who is days away from being evicted from his apartment. He floats through a sun-soaked Los Angeles, spying on neighbors and smoking cigarettes until a mysterious woman appears in the courtyard pool. She introduces herself as Sarah and the two share a brief, but pleasant evening together before Sarah (Riley Keough) vanishes without a trace. When Sam finds her apartment emptied overnight, he becomes convinced she is in distress and sets out in search of answers.
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Sam‘s hunt for Sarah leads him down a rabbit hole of pop culture, coded messages, and very real danger. Like wriggling to escape quick sand, Sam is pulled deeper into the mystery with every step he takes. Answers only bring more complicated questions and everything he’s taken for granted is called into question. Like all your favorite noir films, Sam follows a pretty face into a world hidden in plain sight that threatens to unravel his own. He scratches at an otherwise unnoticeable blemish only to reveal a complex tapestry of conspiracy and paranoia.
A brave departure from It Follows (2014), Mitchell crafts an incredibly impressive genre follow up that is as dark as the mind of a man on the edge. Complimenting that bleak atmosphere is a score that could have been compiled from unused Bernard Herman themes for Alfred Hitchcock films. The complexity of the world our characters navigate is a testament to Mitchell’s abilities as a storytelling. There is an ambiguity at its core – that is in control for maybe a little too long, but it’s an uncertainty that we are expected to become familiar with. There are too many questions in life that do not need answering. And whether or not you’re set free, the truth is never pleasant and the truth doesn’t care how you feel about it.
“Under The Silver Lake is a riddle, wrapped in a movie, hidden inside a subliminal message.”
It’s not often you see a movie that doesn’t try to wrap everything up into a neat little bow for you. It has been an absolute joy to discuss this movie with other festival attendees and we all come to the table with different pieces to the puzzle. We too have become amateur sleuths, obsessed with a mystery that should be easier to solve. Everything we needed to crack the code was right there in front of us the whole time! But what good is a mystery if it could all unravel so easily?
Under The Silver Lake is a riddle, wrapped in a movie, hidden inside a subliminal message.
Under The Silver Lake celebrated its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 19th. A24 Films is currently set to release the film December 7th.
Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!