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Non-Review Review: Under the Silver Lake

There is far too much masturbation in Under the Silver Lake, of both the literal and figurative variety.

To be entirely fair to writer and director David Robert Mitchell, this is entirely the point. Under the Silver Lake is many things, but a large part of it is a genre hybrid between existential slacker drama, anthropological journey through the eccentric and self-absorbed spaces of Los Angeles, and absurdist investigative thriller. Those sorts of genres lend themselves to excessive self-indulgence and self-importance, the sorts of grand-sounding-yet-completely-empty philosophical treatises on the human condition that seem to have been written by those high on their drug of choice or simply themselves. With that in mind, the amount of literal masturbation in Under the Silver Lake seems pointedly self aware, a tacit acknowledgement of the figurative masturbation.

Lost Angeles.

Under the Silver Lake does have a few good ideas. More than that, it has a couple of legitimately great scenes, moments that demonstrate the same skill with the uncanny that made Mitchell’s It Follows so effective. There are moments when Under the Silver Lake walks that fine line between being darkly, bleakly funny and also being uncomfortably, hauntingly unsettling. However, the issue is that these moments are far too fleeting and far too ephemeral, frequently lost amid long and listless passages in which Under the Silver Lake indulges in well-worn cliché and obvious ideas. Under the Silver Lake is shrewd enough to acknowledge and even try to deflate some of its sense of self-importance, but there’s an awkward seam of self-assuredness that runs through the film.

As much as Under the Silver Lake might brutally and incessantly mock its lead character for his assumption that he can figure out the secret code of the universe, it often feels like Under the Silver Lake is convinced that it has a much more insightful perspective, even as it packages well-worn ideas as profound revelations.

This is all going swimmingly.

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Non-Review Review: Reservoir Dogs

I had the pleasure of attending the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of this film.

Reservoir Dogs is my favourite film amongst Quentin Tarantino’s accomplished filmography. It seems a strange choice, as most film fans would concede that it’s pretty great, but would readily point to Pulp Fiction as the definitive Tarantino film. However, I think that Reservoir Dogs has an elegant simplicity that elevates it, allowing Tarantino to demonstrate his unique skills in an environment where he isn’t too confined or too rigidly structured. In a way, it’s that wonderful structure that makes Pulp Fiction so exceptional, but Reservoir Dogs has a relatively modest scale that makes it a lot easier to appreciate Tarantino’s deft mastery of form.

Whiter than White?

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Miami Vice: Brother’s Keeper (Pilot)

We’re currently blogging as part of the “For the Love of Film Noir” blogathon (hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren) to raise money to help restore the 1950’s film noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me). It’s a good cause which’ll help preserve our rich cinematic heritage for the ages, and you can donate by clicking here. Over the course of the event, running from 14th through 21st February, I’m taking a look at the more modern films that have been inspired or shaped by noir. Today’s theme is “a brighter shade of noir” – neo-noir that eschews the dark aesthetic for which the genre is famous.

If I ask you to close your eyes and think of Miami Vice, I’m fairly share I can guess what comes to mind, in no particular order. Speedboats, stubble, sunsets in Florida, the music of Jan Hammer, In The Air Tonight, sharp suits and lots of pastel colours. In fairness, a lot of this is very fair – Miami Vice was a show that had a very polished and practiced superficial exterior, and it’s that aspect of the television show that worked its way into popular consciousness. However, looking back at the show – and especially that first season (and maybe a little bit of the second season) – I think it might also be one of the best neo-noir television shows ever produced. Don’t worry, I’m not being controversial for the sake of being controversial.

Well, not just.

No more Mr. Vice Guy...

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Non-Review Review: Chinatown

“You may think you know what’s you’re dealing with,” a character warns private detective Jack Gittes at one point during Chinatown“but, believe me, you don’t.” Later on, Gittes confesses to his lover that, when he was a police officer working in Chinatown, his beat consisted of doing “as little as possible”, an anecdote that screenwriter Robert Towne reportedly heard from an officer who had actually served in Chinatown – rather than an officer involving himself in some sort of event that he couldn’t possibly comprehend, the police would actively disengage themselves from the community. That’s the core of the corruption at the heart of Polanski’s film – how little anyone actually knows about what is really happening, and how it’s easy to ignore these things rather than attempting to deal with them.

A nosey detective...

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Non-Review Review: The Usual Suspects

Wow. Neo-noir is a very tough genre to pull off. It really is. Think of how many dodgy movies you’ve seen about drug dealers and bent cops in the last year alone (I’ve even seen one this weekend). When it works, it works magically. It seems like the mid-nineties was the era for producing any number of classic modern noir-style tales. There’s Copland, L.A. Confidential and – of course – the movie that arguably started the whole trend. We’re looking at you, The Usual Suspects

Calvin Klein models just aren't trying anymore...

Calvin Klein models just aren't trying anymore...

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