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.