Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

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mfunk9786
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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#76 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed May 29, 2019 11:36 am

Foam wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 11:21 am
I rented this on Amazon about a week ago and it was in the same aspect ratio as the trailer.

I thought the film was awesome too. It is self-indulgent but for me that manifested not so much in shagginess but, almost the opposite, hitting certain points in the (nearly) formulaic hero's journey with a little too much operatic obviousness. While the Pynchon comparisons are appropriate, this is really its own film with its own identity apart from Inherent Vice. It's different in the way it nails specific male elder millennial anxieties and does so with an edgy, live wire paranoia rather than a vague, smoky, stumbling one.
It was pretty good, but wore out its welcome in the final act a bit. Did seem to have a pretty complicated relationship with its female characters, and I say that as someone who isn't typically as sensitive to that sort of thing as some are. Mitchell would've been well served to reign in the desire to show the viewer everything that's alluded to earlier in the film, pulling the curtain back as much as he does by the time credits roll isn't doing the film any favors. Maybe A24 was right to encourage cuts, if that's indeed what they did. Plenty of small pleasures, but the sum was considerably fewer than its parts.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#77 Post by soundchaser » Wed May 29, 2019 11:46 am

I found it unbearably smug, at once extremely interesting and far too distant. Mitchell wants us to become the protagonist and dislike him at the same time, and I don’t think the film is strong enough to walk that tightrope successfully. It’s got serious, crippling tone issues (see: the chess party sequence), and I agree with mfunk that the ending is far too neat for what precedes it. Still, yes, small pockets of brilliance, but I wish Mitchell would have let them actually sink in before yanking them out from under the audience.

EDIT: The score is absolutely amazing, though. Agree with swo that it’s the best part of the film.
Last edited by soundchaser on Wed May 29, 2019 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#78 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed May 29, 2019 12:04 pm

Mitchell continues to have a borderline annoying relationship with nostalgia, ostensibly wanting to make grown up movies but not being able to get away from near-constant fetishistic inclusion of totems from his youth - it's a mix that feels a bit like oil and water at times. Sure, here it's supposed to signify the lead character's lack of maturity, which is a step forward, I suppose? But it's still exhausting, because it's coming from a place of not being able to move on from that milieu. Ironic that it was released in close proximity to a film literally called mid90s, about actual children, that did considerably less of that sort of thing despite the door being wide open to pile it on. Yes, I remember Nintendo Power magazine, but does that mean you need to include it in a key plot device two hours into your overlong neo-noir film?

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#79 Post by soundchaser » Wed May 29, 2019 12:11 pm

If I’m reading the film fairly (and it’s possible that I’m not), the Nintendo Power subplot is supposed to signify the audience’s immaturity as well, which really bothers me. It’s a climactic moment, and getting invested at least a little is only natural, but I think Mitchell’s trying to say that getting invested in that moment is *wrong*. Which really begs the question: why put the moment in and do it justice only to slap the audience across the face with it immediately after? That’s a perfect example of why I called it “smug” above.

I have a similar problem with the plotline about pop music and the film’s non-diegetic use of pop music, which don’t mix at all.
Last edited by soundchaser on Wed May 29, 2019 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#80 Post by domino harvey » Wed May 29, 2019 12:12 pm

mfunk, I remember you mentioning something similar in your dismissal of It Follows, and I again must ask if you’ve seen the Myth of the American Sleepover yet, because it is a highly accurate portrayal of being a teenager in the late 90s without any specific media-based pop culture artifacts invoked. Since he’s only made three films, I think it would benefit a discussion of his overall inclinations to at least see the film that easily debunks that approach (and perhaps your reading is still fair and he’s moving further in that direction... but he didn’t start there). I don’t think anyone could honestly call Myth smug, at least

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#81 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed May 29, 2019 12:23 pm

I'm quite surprised considering the content of that film that it went away from that sort of thing, but I'm glad to hear it and I'm sure I'll get to it eventually. I just find it to be an easy way to push pleasure buttons in a specific sort of audience, and in this film, it was a lot of cereal boxes and video games and vinyl records and at times I was imagining being someone who's either 18 years old or 60 years old watching this and just zoning out, not getting the same endorphin rush that Mitchell wants us to get from seeing these touchstones of early Millennial youth culture all over this picture. Especially because it's at its best when it is standing on its own two feet and confidently engaging with its own unique dialogue and narrative.

And I don't know if these things would stand out to me this much if it weren't for the way Mitchell includes them. He can't have, say, "Brimful of Asha" or "What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?" playing in the background (Or foreground! There's nothing wrong with using pop music in your movie!) without having characters break the fourth wall to make sure we notice these songs, to elbow us and seem to say "eh? EH? Remember?!" It's just not my sensibility, I suppose, to fall back on a crutch of any kind, but particularly one that feels so ill at ease with one's own clearly evident storytelling chops, which pretty significantly improved from It Follows to this film in my view.
soundchaser wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 12:11 pm
If I’m reading the film fairly (and it’s possible that I’m not), the Nintendo Power subplot is supposed to signify the audience’s immaturity as well, which really bothers me.
This likely says it better than I've been able to find the words for.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#82 Post by tenia » Wed May 29, 2019 12:28 pm

soundchaser wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 12:11 pm
If I’m reading the film fairly (and it’s possible that I’m not), the Nintendo Power subplot is supposed to signify the audience’s immaturity as well, which really bothers me.
Not having been able to understand really if we're supposed to care about the main character or laugh at his frantic silly search, I'm actually not sure if we're suppose to laugh at the character over-analysing a Nintendo Power mag for clues or not. The ending only muddied this further for me since, technically, he was right to do so, meaning that's not that immature after all.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#83 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed May 29, 2019 12:32 pm

And because of that contradiction, part of me wonders if we're just supposed to go "oh cool, Nintendo!" - which is absolutely pandering and not an acceptable substitute for an actual plot, however much it's constructed to be deliberately obtuse and inexplicable in the tradition of this kind of film

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#84 Post by Foam » Wed May 29, 2019 12:34 pm

This is a film which knows its Hitchock and De Palma and knows their histories of psychoanalytic criticism. And it may not be fashionable to do so anymore, but when you look at it from that angle--of nostalgia as a form of paranoid regression--the Nintendo Power doesn't look either smug or like it's simply trying to push nostalgia buttons. The film is not interested in shaming people for their nostalgia from some kind of imagined distance. It identifies with that nostalgia as well as the potential shame of that nostalgia arguably more than it imagines its audience will and plays it for what in my mind is light, good natured laughs. Following from that gap between the nostalgia and its shame spring the unarticulated forces driving Sam's paranoia: "am I the only one still hung up on this stuff? should I be searching for ultimate meaning in song lyrics and old walkthrough maps? why am I trying to fit in with the cool kids by decoding everything when the cool kids aren't decoding anything?" etc.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#85 Post by soundchaser » Wed May 29, 2019 12:39 pm

tenia wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 12:28 pm
Not having been able to understand really if we're supposed to care about the main character or laugh at his frantic silly search, I'm actually not sure if we're suppose to laugh at the character over-analysing a Nintendo Power mag for clues or not. The ending only muddied this further for me since, technically, he was right to do so, meaning that's not that immature after all.
Right, that’s exactly what I mean — the Nintendo Power moment is both a serious reveal and a sign of immaturity, and I don’t think you can string an entire film on this doubling without coming down on one side or the other. I think it speaks volumes to how unsuccessful this ambiguity was that mfunk and I have two totally opposite problems with this plot device that are both coherent readings of what the film’s trying to do.

Foam, I do think you’re onto something there in that the film is about nostalgia as paranoia — and I’ll point out the way Sam sticks out clothing-wise at the solo party sequence as giving some credence to that. I just didn’t find it all that funny, unfortunately.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#86 Post by nitin » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:19 pm

I enjoyed the first two thirds of this movie, albeit only on a laid back entertainment level without it ever being anything deeper, but the final third is Mitchell attempting to go Lynch without understanding Lynch. And in that last third the movie disappears so far up its own behind, it’s mind boggling anyone didn’t stop and just at least ask the simple question “Really”?

Also, on a sidenote, there have been mentions above to the references/homages to Chinatown, Inherent Vice and The Long Goodbye but there were also a couple to the great Cutter’s Way.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#87 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:25 pm

I can finally watch this now that it's on Prime but I have a question about the BBFC rating note: "There are visual and verbal references to suicide and the killing of dogs." What sort of visual references to killing of dogs does that mean? Extremely graphic photos of killed dogs?

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#88 Post by Never Cursed » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:35 pm

A subplot involves a character known as the Dog Killer, an entity who goes around serial killing rich people’s dogs for an indiscernible reason. There are some comic book-style drawings/animations of dead dogs and maybe a couple of (obviously staged) live-action shots of dead dogs, none of which are graphic. The fact that this merited a BBFC footnote in the first place is eyebrow-raising to say the least,
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especially given the incredibly gruesome exit of one (human) character in particular

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#89 Post by Persona » Sun Jul 14, 2019 11:46 pm

I get that the film's referentialism is part of its point, the sad obsession of Garfield's character trying to find meaning in entertainment and pop culture is echoed by the film's own form--it's an ouroboros, right--and the film rejects itself just as much as it rejects Sam, who I struggle to see how we're supposed to feel anything but antipathy towards.
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Even when the film reveals that it is basically about Sam's heartbreak and depression and that's all it was ever about, just in the context of trying to bury that central emotion underneath a "mountain of concrete" of zany misdirection, of conspiracies and messages within messages, when the only real secret message or code is the unbreakable code of one's own self in the context of modern society.
Ultimately, though, while I was never not interested in the film, I still found it overlong and so cluttered with its indulgences that regardless of whatever meta-textual subversion game it was playing at, I still have to ask if I needed to play the game with it. It's just not insightful and incisive enough to be more than a mildly entertaining one-off, and while one-third of the film had me engaged another third was quite annoying, with the remaining third feeling like filler or just redundant reiteration of Garfield's obsession and sickness. Which, again, I get the intention of.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#90 Post by Monterey Jack » Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:01 pm

It's like Richard Kelly humped the screenplay to Inherent Vice. Maybe it's the point that nothing connects to anything else, but I still found this wildly self-indulgent and meandering.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#91 Post by albucat » Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:11 pm

"It's like Richard Kelly humped the screenplay to Inherent Vice" - You just described why it's my favorite movie I've seen this year.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#92 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:25 pm

I enjoyed this the first time but a second viewing solidified the film’s greatness. Part of its success is in the intention of subverting expectations from this kind of neo-noir narrative. The main character is unlikeable, the story goes places but really nowhere, clues are laughably indistinct, and the characters and story don’t seem to fit in reality (one of the most telling moments seems to be Garfield’s reaction to some children playing pranks, which serves as both an odd kind of catharsis and a troubling and alienating moment at the same time). The surrealistic milieu allows for Mitchell to find creative ways to play with our desire, and need, to search for meaning, and proposes that perhaps our pop culture and nostalgia signifies such meaning as the only authentic reality in subjective experience.

I don’t see the film as pretentious or manipulative, though I can see that reading just as I can see one where these objects of nostalgia create a quasi-version of Sartre’s Nausea for Garfield and by extension us. Instead I read this as a film that restrains itself to remain broadly defined and then infuses lavish technique and various details not to distance or draw us in, but to craft a narrative that is Garfield’s. It’s an illusion, but it’s his illusion, and toying with absurd plot developments and a style that magnifies romanticized visuals to disorienting degrees proclaims the movie as his movie, and perhaps our movie. The form fits the ungrounded vibe of both him and our internal operations as we attempt to access both a filmic narrative and real life, exposing its unpredictable nature and absurdism through this somewhat relatable but strange world to moods ranging from piercingly dark to hysterically funny, yet all entertaining. Details like framing the watching of a drone’s-eye-view through a computer screen and then shifting to embody the viewpoint of the drone camera itself encapsulates this idea of participation as observer with subjective mastery; and a scene where a fellow paranoid theorist spouts apparently self-aware notions of ideologies as manipulative falsehoods only to state that he ‘should’ have a family to leave his relics, subconsciously acting in hypocritical juxtaposition with his awareness through embracing the constructed ideology of the significance of family, a moment which also reproduces the subliminal irony of the film’s plotting.

This is operating on a metaphysical level and a purely surface level simultaneously, aware that it’s a film but also not demanding that we “get” any objective meaning behind what Mitchell is doing. Sure there’s intent in layers (the plot’s skeleton is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy for the isolated millennial to cope with a lack of control or acceptance of his place in the social world) but less nudging and more of a presentation of acute awareness that pokes at absurdist existentialism in filmic language without demanding cerebral analysis. Here the self-awareness serves as a confident baseline to exist independently, and begets an invitation to participate in any which way we choose. Mitchell is giving us the movie we want (or that he thinks we want), with just enough of a twist in its schema to offer us the opportunity to simply bask in the delights of the bizarre atmosphere, or to question deeper meaning and feel as confounded as Garfield, searching for something that isn’t there, and either way we are left with only our experience just like him. It’s no wonder this film has divided audiences, as its entire focus is presenting a narrative about finding subjective value, under direction that facilitates and reinforces a process of subjective value in its viewership. I don’t believe that Mitchell is trying to cram anything down our throats (a decision that could even be considered humble in its bold restraint of anti-message direction, to challenge claims of pretentiousness) except for enough colorful lush and vague details to transmit an excess of signifiers from where we can draw our own conclusions, which may bore some and astound others.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#93 Post by domino harvey » Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:58 am

David Robert Mitchell is clearly a talented director, and I loved his first film and liked his second, but this one doesn't work. Comparisons to Southland Tales are dead on, as it's what kept coming to mind for me while watching: over-ambition and a ton of ideas that don't work together in any satisfying way. Even though it's Mitchell's third film, it has the skunk spray stench of a sophomore vanity pic.

I can maybe give Garfield's ability to draw an endless string of hott hipsters a pass given the noir tradition Mitchell's drawing from similarly often features schlubs pulling far above their league, but the leering grossness of this film's depiction and portrayal of women (perhaps best exemplified in the rather endless Riki Lindhome nude scene early on) is a bit much without something to tether it to; I don't buy claims that this film offers anything in the neighborhood of a critique of this kind of gaze, so what I'm left with is... a literal smelly loser scores 9s and 10s without trying? Okay, so what? But the whole film's "So what?" so maybe that's fine. I don't know. Whatever. I don't think the film engages with anything on any level of adherence to consistency, and two outrageous events occur back to back 2/3 of the way through this film that the movie is simply not able to recover from even though they rather insultingly have almost no bearing on what follows--
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The first appearance/confirmation of the Owl Woman and Garfield smashing in the head of the Songwriter
The above is clearly drifting into Lynch wannabe areas, but for as weird as Lynch's bizarro antics can get, I find them genuine and intuitive. These and other rando occurrences seem just weird for weird's sake and yet way, way too familiar: there is nothing worse than some young filmmaker emulating Lynch (worse even than the Tarantino rip-off artists of the 90s, though sometimes the Venn diagram overlaps and you get Mad Dog Time-- not that this movie's anywhere near that nadir, but, wait, where was I? Oh yes, in hobo signage: 2/10). This film drags the viewer through a stream of slick looking scatological ugliness and pointless dead ends and asides as it goes to great lengths to say not much. This should have played over the end credits instead of another taste of a justly forgotten REM track!

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#94 Post by Constable » Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:59 pm

I couldn't make heads or tails of this film. There are these plot lines that seem to make no sense at all:

1) dog killer

This is made much of throughout the film, but no resolution really comes of it.

2) owl lady killing men

Again, same as the dog killer - it's introduced and never explained, nor does it seem to have any connection to any other plotlines

3) the hidden messages

What connection do the hidden messages have with the scheme of rich men creating tombs for themselves? Why did the messages lead Andrew Garfield to that?

The film seems to have all these disparate storylines that are never resolved nor seem to have any connection to each other.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#95 Post by soundchaser » Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:02 pm

Constable wrote:
Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:59 pm
I couldn't make heads or tails of this film. There are these plot lines that seem to make no sense at all:

1) dog killer

This is made much of throughout the film, but no resolution really comes of it.
I think the implication of the film is that
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Andrew Garfield's character is the dog killer, or at least *could be* him. I think this is a little stupid, frankly, but it's what the movie is going for.
The Owl Woman struck me as just sort of a mood creator more than anything else.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#96 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:23 pm

I clearly read a lot more into this film's creative intent than others, but on a very simplistic level I think most would agree that there's a pretty clear thematic interest in Gen Y's preoccupation with making meaning out of anything they can grasp, in a world where overpopulated signifiers in pop culture drown out clear sight to tangible meaning. The lack of connectivity seems to be very much the point of the film, and some of the details are just absurdist enigmatic threats like the dog killer, though it works at highlighting the consequences of the overwhelming shadow of nihilism on the people who desperately claw at fighting it- notably in one of the funniest exchanges in the movie
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when Garfield and Hernandez are walking at night and spot the dog killer poster:

Garfield: "I think we're safe, we don't have a dog with us"
Hernandez: "But surely anyone who would kill a dog would also kill a person?"
Garfield: "Mmm I'm not sure that's true"
There's something hilarious about the way Garfield sees humanity's worth as of less value than a dog's in the eyes of his generation, partly because many people already do, but it's also fitting for the tone of the film.

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#97 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Sep 19, 2020 5:53 pm

soundchaser wrote:
Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:02 pm
Constable wrote:
Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:59 pm
I couldn't make heads or tails of this film. There are these plot lines that seem to make no sense at all:

1) dog killer

This is made much of throughout the film, but no resolution really comes of it.
I think the implication of the film is that
SpoilerShow
Andrew Garfield's character is the dog killer, or at least *could be* him. I think this is a little stupid, frankly, but it's what the movie is going for.
The Owl Woman struck me as just sort of a mood creator more than anything else.
I've read this theory on reddit and elsewhere but it doesn't make a lick of sense to me.
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I 'get' that there's an intentional element of disconnect between us and Sam, and that the film is likely imposing those hidden messages to make us wonder about it, but only insofar as acknowledging that we have a natural inclination to attempt to find tangible answers just like him, which isn't exactly painted in the most romantic of lights. Mitchell is holding up a mirror to audiences looking for these easy forms of closure (I think the whole film is an externalization of our solipsistic desire to be in our own movie, but I've already written about that) and the dog killer can be an example of that, but certainly not a prioritization.

I actually think that when Garfield tearfully expresses to the Homeless King why he carries dog bones, it's a moment that carries a wealth of significance. We are afforded completely new information about him and the nostalgia from a past relationship we never know about that drives his actions. This is emotionally resonant, and incredibly relevant characterization- which is so contradictory to how characters are developed in movies that it reinforces our dissociation from Garfield as a surrogate as much as it humanizes his own enigmatic emotional secrets, that have been hidden in a superficial existential quest. Thus we are driven away and towards him at once, and that acknowledgement of the universal quality of people as both unknowable strangers and psychologically relatable peers demands the 'leap of faith' in allowing mysteries to remain as such without assigning concrete evidence to them. So I think we are meant to believe him in that moment, and specifically not believe that he is the dog killer, just as the Homeless King does so nonchalantly (to even Garfield's surprise) when he promises not to reveal what he knows. The scene works in direct opposition to our expectations because a leap of faith is granted, and Mitchell sides with believing that Garfield is telling the truth and is not the dog killer even though one could attempt to assemble evidence and declare it if defaulting to the drive of 'needing to know what we cannot know.'

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Re: Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2019)

#98 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Aug 01, 2021 10:51 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:58 am
I don't think the film engages with anything on any level of adherence to consistency, and two outrageous events occur back to back 2/3 of the way through this film that the movie is simply not able to recover from even though they rather insultingly have almost no bearing on what follows--
SpoilerShow
The first appearance/confirmation of the Owl Woman and Garfield smashing in the head of the Songwriter
The above is clearly drifting into Lynch wannabe areas, but for as weird as Lynch's bizarro antics can get, I find them genuine and intuitive. These and other rando occurrences seem just weird for weird's sake and yet way, way too familiar
Rewatching this again for the fifth time, these two sequences, in addition to the "What's the Frequency Kenneth?" dance (where Garfield suddenly appears on the dance floor with Grace Van Patten as soon as he hears the song come up, sans a shred of temporal continuity to maximize fantasy-gorging) reaffirm my theory that this is Garfield's own blending with his subjectivity to exist within the delusion of his own movie. The overly familiar content is very much the point, from pop culture references, auteurist aping (and in some cases direct scene-copying), noir and Pynchon nods, and self-reflexivity of the narcissistic part of western individualism escaping into 'narrative', whether through art or in real life.

This film is too smart for its own good, and the more times I see it the less I buy the accusations that Mitchell is positioning himself as superior to his audience. He's recycling the noir concepts extrapolated into our existential drives, validating our fatalistic motivations for finding meaning, our inescapable vantage points of starring in our own narratives, and by making the antihero and unknowable, unlikeable, and uninteresting vehicle, we can both laugh at ourselves and despairingly identify with the unglamorous nature of being unexceptional. Garfield's confession of 'I thought I'd be important to someone' without making the effort, or possessing the tools, to try, is just as tragic as it is laughable. Mitchell is using our own culture regorged back at us to highlight the messy absurdist human experience of millennial malaise.

The final revelation of elitist conspiracy is a hilarious self-fulfilling invention, but not even in his imagination can Garfield be as important to Keough as the idea of her is to him. Her wise farewell, "Well there's no getting out now so I may as well make the best of it" triggers his own epiphany, a MPDG-functioning relationship without the reciprocity of basic romance, and that final confession about the dog's bones from Garfield is undoubtedly an authentic breakthrough of characterization. It's the first time he becomes honest with himself and 'present' without distraction, a break from his own movie. There's certainly a line being towed throughout that repels and binds us to him at various points (i.e. as he realises vengeance against those little kids, the catharsis is solely his to have!) so perhaps an interpretation that he's a suspect for the dog-killer works to grant him mysterious power and also highlight our distance from him, but it doesn't work in the end. I think we need to believe his tears. The idea of waiting for his ex to take him back so he could rub the dog's ears "and everything would be good again" fits squarely within his sad (simultaneously sympathetic and pathetic) ethos of yearning/expecting an outcome he's not prepared, or equipped, to work for- or accept the ubiquitous enigmas of his milieu as they are.

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