Directors' Showcase / UK premiere

In the City of Sylvia

  • José Luis Guerin /
  • Spain, France /
  • 2007 /
  • 84 mins

Xavier Lafitte, Pilar López de Ayala, Laurence Cordier, Tanja Czichy / Fiction / French

Ever dreamed up stories about people you glimpsed on the street...?

?As a shadow tellingly slow-stalks across a bedroom wall, a beautiful man furrows his brow as he channels the linguistic into the concrete – thought into writing. At a café the same artist sketches the various miens of its female patrons, the dark graphite replicating the French light’s luminous caress of their faces. So far, so process of inspiration. Yet through a slow accretion of detail, a realisation forms – a comprehension that this man is enamoured with one of the women, someone he may have met briefly years earlier. As a furtive stalking game begins, the film becomes something entirely opposite: a series of mysterious repetitions that articulate an artist’s conjoining of creativity, environs, desires and memories, a process that resounds with cinematic image construction itself. This exists as an adjunct to both Modernist and post-modern cinema; it’s a post-modern fracturing of a Robert McKee-era’s formulaic narrative paradigm, but it is also akin to a re-staging of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party by Alain Resnais – as a 24-frame-a-second mîse-en-abime. Here, summered recollections of French Impressionism echo a Kieslowskian circulative re-mapping of social spaces, pace Three Colours: Red. It unfurls through a series of duplications: graffiti; rolling bottles; lives and desires lived in peddled loops. As transcendent and delicately enigmatic as Ozu’s Early Spring washing line pillow shots, its mîse-en-scène recalls Michael Powell’s notions of total cinema: its subjective play with objective environmental sounds is the most playful since Jacques Tati’s Playtime. Not since a Blow Up-era Antonioni has the relationship between image and reception been so beguiling, so ambivalent. And just like his counterpart in Blow Up, In the City of Sylvia’s photographer shows the perils of a Baudelairian protagonist attempting to freeze the world in a perfect mirror, through the timeless light of his wide eyes.

2008 Archive

Image from In the City of Sylvia

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