In the City of Sylvia (PG)

Film

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Mar 10 2009

The foolhardy attempts of a bookish lothario to stoke the fires of his fading memory are captured with mad invention in this unusual film from Catalan iconoclast José Luis Guerín.

The serene plazas and back alleys of Strasbourg are the hunting ground for Xavier Lafitte’s Él, a young artist who has taken to trailing beautiful women around the city in the hope of locating an old flame called Sylvia. What at first feels like a fractured, experimental and slightly seedy mood piece on male perspective and fantasy blossoms into a meditation on desire and becomes something both profound and logical.

That it works is in no small part due to Guerín’s sterling work behind the camera. A rambling set-up leads to a surprisingly gripping mid-section as he pursues Pilar López de Ayala’s Ella through the streets. Every frame is calculated to develop the film’s dense framework of literary, artistic and film references – with particular reverence set aside for Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ – as well as delivering a credible recreation of the urban experience with the help of rhythmic editing and detailed sound design. The use of recurring shots and motifs, as well as a penchant for lingering on the pensive faces of mainly female passers-by, all hint that Guerín sees this as a single thread in a much bigger and even more wildly coloured tapestry.
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Release details

Rated:

PG

UK release:

Fri Mar 13, 2009

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|18
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Gerry

This film is on a par with Antonioni's L'Avventura and Zurlini's Cronaca Familiare, films I have watched many times. I will see Sylvia again and again. Xavier Lafitte, with almost no dialogue, did an extraordinary job of sustaining one's interest from beginning to end. Few actors would have managed this. Perhaps Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson. Of the younger generation of actors I cannot think of any.

Gerry

This film is on a par with Antonioni's L'Avventura and Zurlini's Cronaca Familiare, films I have watched many times. I will see Sylvia again and again. Xavier Lafitte, with almost no dialogue, did an extraordinary job of sustaining one's interest from beginning to end. Few actors would have managed this. Perhaps Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson. Of the younger generation of actors I cannot think of any.

Will

Apologies, I realise that my last comment was unnecessarily personal and biting. But the film is still wonderful. If it didn't resonate with some people on a tonal level or otherwise, then that's fine, but there's really no excuse for narrow-mindedness.

Will

Apologies, I realise that my last comment was unnecessarily personal and biting. But the film is still wonderful. If it didn't resonate with some people on a tonal level or otherwise, then that's fine, but there's really no excuse for narrow-mindedness.

Will

"slow editing is not synonymous with substance", nor is literalism. Ludbrook, your inability see beyond character in its most vapid sense is "pathetic", Xavier Lafitte's flaneur/viewer-construct certainly isn't. I could go on and actually review the film, but I'm afraid that the dearth of imagination suffered by this site's blander (and, almost certainly, balder) viewers maybe complemented by an equally moronic stubbornness.

Will

"slow editing is not synonymous with substance", nor is literalism. Ludbrook, your inability see beyond character in its most vapid sense is "pathetic", Xavier Lafitte's flaneur/viewer-construct certainly isn't. I could go on and actually review the film, but I'm afraid that the dearth of imagination suffered by this site's blander (and, almost certainly, balder) viewers maybe complemented by an equally moronic stubbornness.

Phil Ince

I saw this for a second time last week. I wouldn't say that it's The Best film I've ever seen, if only because there are others that I am more fond of. However, I don't think I've ever seen a better film than this. It's full of human incident and mystery, ambiguity. There are strong emotional repsonses triggered by the behaviour of the central figure, at least, and simply lovely portraiture, still life compositions, and repeatedly beautiful observations of objects moved by the wind - most enchantingly a dress hung on a upstairs balcony and the hair of young women being caught and cast as they stand at a tram stop. It's a sublime film. Entirely unpretentious and as diversely rewarding as any film I've ever seen.

Phil Ince

I saw this for a second time last week. I wouldn't say that it's The Best film I've ever seen, if only because there are others that I am more fond of. However, I don't think I've ever seen a better film than this. It's full of human incident and mystery, ambiguity. There are strong emotional repsonses triggered by the behaviour of the central figure, at least, and simply lovely portraiture, still life compositions, and repeatedly beautiful observations of objects moved by the wind - most enchantingly a dress hung on a upstairs balcony and the hair of young women being caught and cast as they stand at a tram stop. It's a sublime film. Entirely unpretentious and as diversely rewarding as any film I've ever seen.

Ian

I saw the film as a result of your 5 star rating. Your reviewer must be a shareholder at the Curzon or a relative of the film's Director. A really awful film and a gross indulgence by the Director.

Ian

I saw the film as a result of your 5 star rating. Your reviewer must be a shareholder at the Curzon or a relative of the film's Director. A really awful film and a gross indulgence by the Director.

P. Ludbrook

The most overrated film to appear so far this year. The travails of this pathetic obsessive were not gripping, funny or touching. Best things about the movie were Strasbourg, the photography and the sound design. By the end I wanted two men in white coats to take him somewhere for therapy.

P. Ludbrook

The most overrated film to appear so far this year. The travails of this pathetic obsessive were not gripping, funny or touching. Best things about the movie were Strasbourg, the photography and the sound design. By the end I wanted two men in white coats to take him somewhere for therapy.

marek

Stunning indeed!?! Pleeease! An incredibly slow paced film (think of paint drying) and more suited for the turbine room of Tate Modern (which is giving it more credit than it is due). It really is lacking in so many ways ... and is more a cinematic tourist brochure for Strasbourg. The plot is wafer-thin and though I like art-house films, there is really the emperors new clothes. Unfortunately nothing new or exciting.

marek

Stunning indeed!?! Pleeease! An incredibly slow paced film (think of paint drying) and more suited for the turbine room of Tate Modern (which is giving it more credit than it is due). It really is lacking in so many ways ... and is more a cinematic tourist brochure for Strasbourg. The plot is wafer-thin and though I like art-house films, there is really the emperors new clothes. Unfortunately nothing new or exciting.

H. Parker

Stunning! The most beautiful film I've seen in years. this is a must see and a director to watch. I can't wait for the DVD and extras.

H. Parker

Stunning! The most beautiful film I've seen in years. this is a must see and a director to watch. I can't wait for the DVD and extras.