Under The Silver Lake

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Let's postulate that referencing something is not the same as making a film.
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Reported on 12th of December, 2019

It’s true I haven’t written for a while, because movies are so weight of the boot on your neck terrible, I can only walk out of the cinema relieved that I haven’t been killed by a falling Ad Astra or a shrieking Brightburn. Relieved until the time comes around for the next film, then disappointed to have enough consciousness left to experience the existential apprehension of sitting through the next had to be 150 minutes long minorwork.

Then relieved again!

I must do it for the relief.

Under The Silver Lake

8 October 2018 @ The Les Studios


-$25.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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The story of 2019 being so bad begins in 2019, but with a film I saw in 2018. I used to look forward to films, and had special websites set up for the UK and France (just for that purpose, and please give them clicks), some being so anticipated they would receive little calendar events, which then would become tickets in case I couldn’t find the ticket, swearing I would fix it later.

Wow, looks like I did fix it. Where did all that energy go?

Looking at allocine a few weeks ago, then clicking through to current showtimes, I noticed that I hadn’t for a long while, because I just didn’t care. In the way of Mr. Philip K. Dick’s mood organ (don’t feeling like choosing a feeling? There’s a feeling for that!) I decided to be pro-active and see What Ever Happened To Mr. David Robert Mitchell, the director of one of the last good films I had seen, It Follows.

It was with the same existential apprehension that I was to discover that he had directed the pointless and embarrassing Under the Silver Lake. Given his name, I mistakenly attributed that cinematic polyp to all-names-sound-the-same Mr. David Gordon Green, because it felt like a film made by someone who had never made a good one. 2019 is the year where I find out that no one has ever made a good film ever.

I’ve fortunately talked about the one good film this year, but since it’s about Bretonnes, it’s an anomaly.

So it was, in retrospect, Under The Silver Lake that pushed me over the edge for 2018 being the worst year in film history, leading to an I’ll-show-you-Scott even worse year in 2019. Nevertheless, there were two points of interest in the film. The first being the tension generated by the computer screwing up and prompting me for some FaceTime login whilst typing in the dark. I’ve never used FaceTime on the computer. ‘But you should! Look how annoying it is!’, the Mac Doyens seem to be saying.

The other was the broken projector at the Les Studios in Brest, which kept dimming and raising the light levels. In lieu of anything of interest on screen, I thought the effect intentional, which kept me awake for an extra ten minutes until blissful, blissful nap time, which occurred around 1h15.

The film ultimately feels like an attempt to incorporate an adolescent's dream into an entire film without trying to find a single true thread within it, Vertigo without Lynch, Mullholland Drive without Hitchcock, an orgasm without an editor.

In retrospect, I think the film was an attempt to riff on Sir Alfred Hitchcock. There was no way to know for sure, what with an actual gravestone of Hitchcock in the film itself, but let’s assume that I’m onto something, and further postulate that referencing something is the same as making a film.

There were various other elements, process shots, having a call-girl service with women who look like movie stars, following people in cars, not having Bernard Herrmann score your film while you’re following people in cars, etc. The film ultimately feels like an attempt to incorporate an adolescent’s dream into an entire film without trying to find a single true thread within it, Vertigo without Lynch, Mulholland Drive without Hitchcock, an orgasm without an editor.

It is a film full of quotes, but comes off less like Tarantino… no scratch that. It comes off exactly like Tarantino. It sucks. Stop doing this when you’re looking at the blank page and you just don’t have it. It comes across for what it is: reference signaling to the critics. They’ll love your film; history will leave it on the floor of the abattoir.

I guess if you have to see if film you don’t want to, the fade in and out quality might help. Could counteract the doing dope scene from Killing Them Softly, so apply carefully.

To wit: the film ends with Mr. Andrew Garfield making love to the woman he previously espied from his balcony, √† la Rear Window. You get the feeling that crossing into the voyeured world is some kind of boundary we’re supposed to feel has been crossed, that no one would dare! I guess never seeing The Long Goodbye (or even the The Long Goodbye reference Minority Report) counts as a boundary now.

There’s a teensy amount of a creative spark in there (codes hidden in pop songs, for example), utterly scattershot, and a potential theme that seems to now be occurring to the rich: making a story about the growing financial divide may be useful to trick the poor into thinking they’re represented or entertained. I just finished a script about the very subject myself. Hopefully I can sell it to the rich.

Unlike Mr. David Robert Mitchell’s inert blackboard exercise, I’m attempting (possibly successfully, possibly not) something that this film does not even seem to know: the best way to riff on Hitchcock is do what you did before – create actual tension in ordinary events.

And that’s the missed opportunity there, with the weird cult of rich people going to heaven by sacrificing prostitutes (yep), there’s no relatability. Yes, for a variety of reasons, and probably for the best.

But in filmmaking, the idea is to re-contextualize real events, so that we can actually relate. The classic example remaining the very simple wine running out scene in Notorious, or the truly breathtaking, “I’m just waiting in line to break a five for the bus” scene from the painfully underrated Quick Change. They’re events we go through daily with a mild amount of tension; good films transform into their writ large counterpoint, being that we’re watching a film, and not having to watch how boring our life is. What with all the film watching.

The new trend of ever-elaborate exposition is what might be called the Quantum Cascade effect. I imagine the beloved tvtropes has an entry on this, but it was impossible to find. They should call it something simple like The Second Peter Hyams Rule or The Class Snuggle.

In this trope, Data or Geordie explains to Picard they have to fix the warp drive which has a Cascade Overload Failure – a fantasy event happening to a fantasy object. To solve this, Data or Georgie, propose to bypass the quantum lines and overload the overload. Then Picard says, you mean like if we primed the accelerator, in a gas engine there’d be no way I could know about?

I made that sound way too plausible.

Embarrassingly, Star Trek made it work, by at least making Data crawl through a pipe to get somewhere and wait for a red light to turn green. We all know what it’s like to go somewhere and do that. That’s about as relatable as it gets.

Might be called, because there’s explaining in great detail (there’s a ritual that gives rich people eternal life), and then there’s exposition about the exposition, explaining in great detail what to do to stop it (‘turn the knife this way!’). It’s not compelling or relatable, and this film does that one worse.

See, I was lying. There’s no knife turning. Instead, there’s the over- almost Kubrickian reliance on the idea that the ambiguous will be read for those forced to watch at the festival as profound. Instead, at the end, nothing happens.

Got it?

You got it.

The Take

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Profits!
The broken projector. That’s all you’re getting.
$1.00
Total Profits
$1.00
Losses!
All the women are prostitutes. Yes. They still do that.
$3.00
And if you’re gonna go that way, and don’t go that way, show his cock for Christ’s sake. ‘Missed opportunity for a poster’ said the notes, and I’d like to see that poster. Probably not the movie, but the poster definitely.
$3.00
And lots of dog killing. The film is so godawful, didn’t even remember that until I got to the notes. Outr√©! Because no one kills dogs in movies I’ll kill dogs, and that’ll make me cool! No one makes good movies either, try rebelling against that, braintrust.
$5.00
I don’t know what’s worse, this film
$7.00
or what it means for future Mr. Mitchell films.
$7.00
Ah. Exactly the same. Turns out I do know.
Total Losses
$26.00

-$25.00

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