Under the Silver Lake

Under the Silver Lake ★★★

A paradox: most of the critics who disliked this at its Cannes premiere last year took it at face value as a sexist celebration of the conspiratorial mindset, which seems ludicrous to me, but it's still a sprawling mess with contradictory politics. I don't think the entire film is the fantasy of amateur detective Sam (Andrew Garfield), but it seems clear to me that it's a subjective view from the POV of a very flawed character. (He beats up children around the 20-minute mark, among other dubious acts.) Just listen to the swooning strings when he first meets Sara (Riley Keough) and the contrast between his lack of charm, skunky smell and unshowered appearance and the way she leaps into bed with him. It's taking the average Seth Rogen rom-com a step further into obvious unreality, but it doesn't make the amount of male wish fulfillment fantasy look natural the way mainstream cinema usually does; indeed, it rubs our noses in how unlikely Sam's sexual success would be. (The film seems remarkably distant from its anti-hero, with little emotional investment in his quest.) However, it still objectifies women and shows T&A to a degree that's unnecessary to make that point. But a bigger problem is that it plays more as a goofy pastiche than cutting satire. The scene with the Songwriter, especially its climax bringing a new meaning to the act of breaking an electric guitar, achieves a paranoid brilliance. There's a near-touching yearning throughout for a culture that doesn't consist of reference points to other reference points, whose only links to reality involve violence and abuses of power. If the film played as THE CRYING OF LOT 49 with a redditor bro in the lead, it would have a focus and tightness this one misses, but I think it's actually more successful than the now-canonical SOUTHLAND TALES.

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