Writer-director Evgueni Mlodik’s ultra-low-budget The Silver Moonlight combines so many genres and so earnestly reaches for the stars that one can’t help but admire this little oddity or marvel at the fact that it even exists. It’s highly saturated with thematic elements, and there’s a clear purpose to it, the cast and crew seemingly on the same wavelength. What that purpose is – well, beats me, except perhaps Mlodik wanted to showcase his adeptness at tackling noir, musical, drama, fairytales, and horror. At a swift 45 minutes, Mlodik’s frankly bonkers film is best seen as a calling card: “Look what I can do for five grand! Now imagine what I can do with five million!”
A body discovered in a lake belongs to the once-sensational cabaret star Sybille (Lindsay Reynolds). The film flashbacks to her glory days. “The crown jewel of Madame Leander’s Cabaret,” Sybille is called into the parlor of the enigmatic Madame Leander (Sabina Leigh), wherein a wager is made, involving frequent visitor Matthias (Eric Calderon). For the duration of the bet, Sybille must give up her most precious gift: her voice. So she bonds with Matthias until a heartbreaking twist leads to… murder.
“…Sybille must give up her most precious gift: her voice.”
The Silver Moonlight is equally head-scratching and endearing for many reasons. Its fifty-minute runtime renders it a tad too long to qualify as a short and way too short to be considered feature-length. Perhaps it’s a standalone TV episode. In that case, why the two extended musical numbers, which take up a good fourth of the running time? What’s up with that out-of-nowhere hunting sequence? Among the many genres the filmmaker toys with here, there are also allusions to fairytale motifs – a character losing their voice, a wager being set, a prince of sorts, some of the imagery invokes those timeless stories – that are never quite developed.
Propelling it all along are Mlodik’s palpable love for cinema and a genuine belief in his craft. Overlook the cheap fade-outs, scene transitions, editing, awful make-up, hammy acting (Calderon perhaps fares the worst), and so on, and there’s something quite honest about The Silver Moonlight. One can’t help but admire its modest, quirky ambitions. Especially since the screenplay is chockful of juicy/terrible lines like, “I’m gone for a few months, and he brings in some unknown vagrant?” Someone, give Mlodik five million dollars.
"…combines so many genres and so earnestly reaches for the stars..."