In The City Of Sylvia (PG)

Written and directed by José Luis Guerín
Screening at FACT from 10th-16th April 2009

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Given the subject matter, this is one of those films which you will either loathe or love, but I firmly stand in the latter camp.

I can perhaps understand why people are turned off by it - very little dialogue, long single camera takes, apparently not much happening in the way of eventful action - but that it is precisely why I was charmed by it.

The cinematography by Argentinian Natasha Braier is beguiling to the eye, notably her shots of reflections of people - especially women's faces - in glass windows.

The first half of the film - directed by Catalanian Jose Luis Guerin, who is known for his meditative style of filmmaking - is spent outside a outdoor cafe in Strasbourg. El (Xavier Lafitte), who is searching for a woman named Sylvia whom he met several years ago in the same city, spends a lot of time sketching the attractive young women sitting at the tables.

He thinks he may have recognised Sylvia seated there on one or two occasions but his hopes soon evaporate.

But one afternoon he is convinced he has spotted her, and he sets off trailing the woman, played by Pilar Lopez de Ayala, through the back streets of Strasbourg.

The closing section of the film takes place in the open air at a railway station where El sits waiting, as if hypnotised. Trains constantly stop and depart within minutes of each other, with Braier once again capturing many enthralling images of pretty women in the windows of the carriages. These are juxtaposed with shots of models pictured in advertising hoardings scattered around the platform, and of women standing waiting for a train.

These final scenes are very sensual and alluring, in keeping with the rest of the film.

In The City Of Sylvia is a perfect antidote to the vacuous films too often trotted out by predictable movie makers.

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