Under the Silver Lake

Spoiler alert: major spoilers.

Under the Silver Lake is a strange and bloated creature, shambling the LA foothills on a private acid trip and dragging bewildered viewers along for the ride. On paper, it’s a mess: from its lurching, hare-brained plot twists and incoherent mythology, to the revolving door of disposable and oversexed femme fatales.

But the film is so assured in its weirdness, so clearly driven by some disquieting internal logic, that I can’t stop thinking about it.

But the film is driven by some shaggy, disquieting logic, which I may not understand, but found weirdly compelling. It is a flawed film, and those flaws are not subtle. It’s hard to figure out what drives it. The film’s big reveals are either bathetic (e.g. the absurd sequence with the Songwriter) or coy, more like a sinister joke third feature from writer/director David Robert Mitchell (It Follows, The Myth of the American Sleepover) The moments when the film is supposed to reveal something, or explain what’s going on, we get moments of bathos: the Songwriter with his , or the pharaonic millionaires There is no character development; the plot is incoherent and bathetic; like the X Files, it seems to cramming too many different mythologies into a single The pervy, adolescent humour is pervy and adolescent, with dispensable, oversexed female characters who are thrown away when it suits the plot. The plot is incoherent and bathetic, One subplot unfolds a tinfoil-hat conspiracy involving secret messages in pop songs. This is personified by the Songwriter, who claims to written half the century’s hits, including grunge anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit to the protagonist’s murderous dismay. In one subplot, we learn that secret messages are hidden in pop songs, some intended for the super wealthy, including (shock horror!) grunge anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit, as the protagonist learns to his murderous dismay in a particularly bathetic scene. In a second, tangentially related subplot, we discover that millionaires are being buried alive in vast underground complexes, with TV, modern kitchens, and a harem of nubile groupies

The film’s pervy, adolescent humour is matched by a cast of oversexed femme fatales thrown away as soon as it suits the story. In one subplot, we learn that pop songs are being encoded with hidden messages for the rich and ideological guff for the masses. It’s not exactly deep stuff, and reaches a low point when our hero confronts an establishment hack about Smells Like Teen Spirit. Some critics have compared it to David Lynch’s masterpiece of headfuck psychodrama, Mulholland Drive. The plot lurches from one hare-brained reveal to another, never really landing any of its narrative punches. But the film is so assured in its weirdness, so clearly driven by some disquieting internal logic, that I found it mesmerising despite its flaws.

Written on October 7, 2018