DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL ON 'BODY DOUBLE', 'THE LONG GOODBYE', 'UNDER THE SILVER LAKE'
Le Forum des images in Paris is currently in the midst of "Portrait de Los Angeles," a program of films (and classes/events about the films) set in Los Angeles. Brian De Palma's Body Double and The Black Dahlia are both included, as are works such as Chinatown, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Mulholland Drive, Once Upon A Time...in Hollywood, Heat, American Gigolo, The Canyons, Licorice Pizza, Sunset Boulevard, Pleasure, Shampoo, The Long Goodbye, and many more.
All three of David Robert Mitchell's features to date - The Myth Of The American Sleepover, It Follows, and Under The Silver Lake - are also part of the series, as he was there last week for the retrospective of his films, and also presnted a Masterclass and "carte blanche," for which he chose two of the series' other films to speak about about. With help from Google Translate, here's what Télérama's Augustin Pietron-Locatelli writes:
On the occasion of its “Portrait of Los Angeles” cycle, the Forum des images received filmmaker David Robert Mitchell. Inhabited by the works of those who had filmed it before him, he superbly staged the city of angels in “Under the Silver Lake”.
He has seen films about it, and his own are full of references: in three feature films, David Robert Mitchell proves his mastery of a wide range of American genres. A reinterpretation of the teen movie, The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010, unreleased in France), his idea of Hitchcockian horror with It Follows in 2014, and then Under the Silver Lake, a hallucinated film noir, a little shunned during its passage in Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival 2018.
Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, "DRM" only landed in Los Angeles for its third feature film. But he knows by heart the classics that depict the city: he is well suited to draw a portrait of them. When we meet the American filmmaker before his first session presentation at the Forum des images in Paris, we discover a man who certainly does not look 48 years old. And who doesn't seem to have come down from an eleven-hour plane flight either... For his carte blanche, clever, he presents two films "which are dear to him", but which, above all, he evokes the air of nothing in his own feature films.
First, The Long Goodbye (1973), which was already haunting the balconies of posh villas… “Is the atmosphere of Robert Altman’s film reflected in mine? A little, but it's the fault of this sacred city, and of all these films about Los Angeles which overwhelm my subconscious," warns the filmmaker. Then, Body Double (1984), by Brian De Palma: “The most “Los Angeles” film of all time. I loved rediscovering it once I settled in California. It’s a brilliant work on voyeurism, strange and full of changes of tone…”
He is reminded that there is a lot of Body Double in Under the Silver Lake. He nods laughing. And continues: “Of course, just like there is a lot of Rear Window in Body Double. I love Hitchcock's films but De Palma takes his language, his techniques, pieces of history and transforms them, takes them further." Mitchell's third film also has this “patchwork” side crossed by references and reinterpretations; the filiation is essential, but we will not make him say that he prefers De Palma. “Do you realize what that would entail? I like both of them. I'm not very good at these rankings that sanctify."
David Robert Mitchell has his own relationship to idols. He cites them willingly, but denies doing so for free. “I am for the 'light' reference, which does not exist for the wink but to share a feeling, which the film arouses in me." Its main character, Sam (Andrew Garfield), for example, pursues a young blonde woman, Sarah (Riley Keough), who cannot fail to recall Naomi Watts in a certain David Lynch film on a certain Californian road. "Mulholland Drive? I built myself by idolizing Lynch. I wouldn't want to imitate him, especially not. I love him so much it must be accidental. Because I had already been told that after The Myth, for which I was thinking of everything but that. I'm probably inhabited… " In fact, Sarah evokes a completely different reference: the young woman speaks to Sam from a swimming pool, "the" scene of Something's Got to Give, the unfinished film - and cult - by George Cukor with Marilyn Monroe.
The director is aiming for the same thing with Los Angeles, and continues to reflect images that we already know, while opening new windows. It's the look of a Michigan native who grew up "super far from movies, while loving them very much". He also shot his first two feature films in Detroit. Then moved to Los Angeles, a city he struggled to “apprehend” at first, to tell himself that he was at home there. But Under the Silver Lake passes for a “Backpacker's Guide” created by a native who knows the city like the back of his hand, with places that we have not seen elsewhere. He tempers: “I arrived in LA with images in mind, seen in all the films all my life. Suddenly, I can reevaluate them by comparing them with the real thing. But the reality presented in the film no longer really exists. It is a set of micro-events, images and clues from my experience arriving in town."
All the same, we come across immutable landmarks. How many times have we filmed the Griffith Park observatory since Rebel Without A Cause? The references even start to intertwine, like in La La Land, where the characters watch the Nicholas Ray movie and then race down the hill. David Robert Mitchell also stages it in his feature film on Los Angeles. Sam performs a sketch with the statue of James Dean in front of the observatory. When asked what the intensity of the place is, "DRM" sketches a smile. "I wish I had a more interesting answer, a director's answer, let's say... But I love this place, and the films that have exploited it. Just going there is magic. In Under the Silver Lake, I think I scrutinized the statue with my director's gaze. But in real life, it's not even a movie anymore. It's just the whole soul of LA in one place!"