In the City of Sylvia (PG)
Time Out rating:
<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5Rate this
Time Out says
Tue Mar 10 2009The 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.
Author: David Jenkins