There is much going on in David Robert Mitchell’s new film “Under the silver lake,” one of the most thematically-dense feats of hardboiled storytelling of this 71st Cannes Festival. In this highly-entertaining “Lake,” to be catalogued under film noir, a tormented, and unemployed, young man, Sam (Andrew Garfield) who dreams of being famous, notices a new occupant in his L.A. apartment complex. Sam is intelligent but he can’t be bothered to find proper work. His car has been impounded and he’s about to be evicted.
Sarah (Riley Keough) is femme-fatale attractive and likes to sun by the pool, directly in Sam’s line of sight. They enjoy a romantic evening together. The next day, she’s disappeared into thin air.
Most of the elements of the film noir genre are present: the alienated and torn hero, the femme fatale, flashbacks, codes, revelations, false clues, and the suspicion of greed, which makes this modern tale about life and death in L.A. very fun to watch.
Andrew Garfield, in his first appearance as leading man in a film selected by the Cannes Festival (“Lake” is competing for the Palme D’Or), is all rubbery nonchalance. His probe into the disappearance of Sarah takes him to various bars, rooftop terrasses, where he meets zany L.A. types. “Lake” could have been conjured out of David Lynch’s movies and James Ellroy’s novels, with a powerful dash of Hitchcock thrown in. A coterie of characters, one wackier than the next, add zest to the movie: a conspiracy-nut who likes to decode the maps contained inside boxes of cereals, a homeless king, the very strange lead singer of a group who likes to praise “Jesus,” youngish escort girls, an embittered old man playing on the piano (in one of the most memorable movie scenes at Cannes this year), the enlightened members of a sect, a fugitive man disguised as a pirate, a constellation of oddballs characters who variously help and impede Sam’s progress through his investigation, comedic leaven
Marked by irony, wit and a constant desire to surprise, “Under The Silver Lake” reveals, especially, a sick and disoriented world. As its aloof hero contemplates the inevitability of his death as danger draws near, the film shows an American society that’s troubled, marked by unbridled ideology and paranoia. “Under the silver lake” is David Robert Mitchell’s tour de force, a film worthy of a prize.