Under the Silver Lake15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
Whenever Keith Lemon chats with one of his guests on Celebrity Juice, be it a minor celebrity or bland pop star, he invariably has to ask them about the product they’re on the show to plug. He asks every single one of them the same, exact question: what’s the message? It’s a deep question, and one that they can never answer conclusively, thanks to him.
Now if he were to ask that of US director David Robert Mitchell regarding his latest feature, his reply well might be: the film IS the message, which would be suitably cryptic and correct.
From his room in his LA apartment complex, Sam (Andrew Garfield) likes to watch. So much so that he has a pair of binoculars, so he can spy on neighbours without them noticing.
Sitting from his balcony, he can’t help but notice his new neighbour, the young and beautiful Sarah (Riley Keogh). He’s so taken with her, that he crosses her path and introduces himself. She appears taken with him too, as she invites him into her apartment. They have a drink, watch a film, and seem to be getting along really well, but she gets a little jittery when her roommates return and asks him to leave. She does say she’d like to see him tomorrow however, so he takes that as a good sign.
When he goes to visit her the next day though, he discovers that her apartment is now completely empty. He sneaks in, to investigate further, only to find a small shoe box with some personal affects inside. At that point, a young woman comes in, so Sam hides, but manages to see her find the box, and take it with her.
Sam soon finds himself obsessed with discovering where Sarah is, and why did she disappear like that? It’s a thread that he pulls at, taking him on a curious trip all over LA, and crossing the path of many of its even more curious inhabitants, in search of answers.
After the critical acclaim Mitchell received for his 2014 horror It Follows, there must have been pressure from some quarters to churn out something similar. Luckily for us, he went in a completely different direction, with this intriguing thriller.
Mitchell isn’t just a filmmaker but a student of film, as is evident from this sublime effort. Imagine Hitchcock and Gilliam procreating creatively, this would be their warped offspring.
It is a feature that is brimming with critical themes: from the voyeuristic Sam, living the Rear Window dream as he attempts to save his neighbour’s life; to the male gaze of the protagonist, that not only deliberately falls upon every young female character, but also the not so subliminal imagery using sex to sell the American way of life.
And if that wasn’t enough to fuck with your brain, Mitchell obsesses with codes throughout, littering his cinematic canvas with the filmic equivalent of gaming Easter eggs. All interweaved into the fabric of his nod to film noir.
The script, which he also wrote, may have one too many ends – both loose and dead – but they all add to the sense of retro theatre that he ultimately delivers.
It’s the type of flick that may well leave you scratching your head, but if that is the case, that’s almost the point. In places it is a little contrived and full of its self, but if you put the coding and puzzle elements to one side, the one thing that is crystal clear is that it’s a beautiful love letter to the golden age of cinema from a huge, geeky fan.
It’s the kind of film that could restore your faith in the current crop of generic filmmakers, and if you’ve ever wondered where the next Scorsese, Coppola or Spielberg will come from, well, he may already be here.
A cool, coded, cult classic.
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