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Sam (Andrew Garfield) is a disenchanted 33-year-old who discovers a mysterious woman, Sarah (Riley Keough), frolicking in his apartment's swimming pool. When she vanishes, Sam embarks on a surreal quest across Los Angeles to decode the secret behind her disappearance, leading him into the murkiest depths of mystery, scandal and conspiracy in the City of Angels.Written by
Finally released in my neck of the woods, A24's Under the Silver Lake starts off 2019 with a bang; an effortful and transporting treat for all human senses. Its colors exquisite, its music delightfully old-school, and its story wonderfully bizarre and original, I've a feeling I already have one of my entries on my 2019 list set.
It starts with the young and aimless L.A. resident Sam (Andrew Garfield), who sees a mysterious woman played by Riley Keough at the apartment complex swimming pool. Although he finds a friend and maybe a lover in the woman, he later finds that she's disappeared without trace alongside her flatmates. Wanting to get to the bottom of this sudden departure, Sam finds out more than he expected, including the woman's connection with the death of a local millionaire, a recent series of dog killings, a peculiar indie band called Jesus & The Brides of Dracula, a "Homeless King", and other things that seem to eerily correspond with the plot of a zine he's been reading.
The side characters are many but they all leave an impression. We meet the adorable but strange Balloon Girl (Grace van Patten, niece of Dick), an actress known as The Actress (Riki Lindhome), Sam's conspiracy nut friend (Patrick Fischler), another friend (Jimmi Simpson) with his head oft in the clouds, a hipster friend known simply as Man at Bar (Topher Grace), and many more. Some are given cameos before they become important to Sam's quest but they remain entertaining throughout.
The director is David Robert Mitchell of It Follows and the composer is Disasterpiece, who provided the Carpenter-inspired synths for that very same film (I recall not being too hot on his music in that film but I've changed my mind). Like It Follows, this movie has an old-fashioned feel, albeit in its own ways.
Characters in the film prefer to hear their music on vinyl, play their games on a Nintendo Entertainment System, and get their porn from Playboy. Someone categorized this film as "hipster noir" and I can sort of see why.
This is an especially great film if you're into mysteries, urban legends, and conspiracy theories. It touches on everything from creatures said to lurk around Los Angeles at night, to secret shelters, to messages hidden within our music, to the idea that all of said music - whether it is rebellious or conformist, regardless of generation - was all masterminded by one person to shape our culture. On top of that is the directing and camera work; the clever, often Wes Anderson-like compositions as well as the long takes that involve many actors, extras and locations at once.
Under the Silver Lake is mystifying, to be sure, and some may be disappointed at its lack of answers. However, it is an original (yet classical) and at times mind-blowing film, even to those who aren't exactly conspiracy theorists. Those who end up liking it, as per my estimation, will end up REALLY liking it.
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