In the City of Sylvia ~ (Spain/France, 2007) ~ Netflix Stream

How is it that I loved this film? By all conventional standards, there is not much here. Perhaps that’s the appeal for me. There is very little dialogue, and lots of static images. This is pure cinema. Nearly 3/4 of the film is taken up by a young man who sits in a cafe observing the patrons and the passing crowd, or walking through the streets as he follows a young woman whom he thinks he knows. He’s an onbserver. He sketches many of the women he sees, but just makes mental notes it seems as he studies their beauty. I feel like I’ve been here, as I’ve spent many of my hours in foreign cities, sitting in cafes or in public plazas just watching. Letting the private lives behind the public faces just wash over me.

The ‘story’, such as it is, has José Luis Guerín’s silent hero visiting Strasbourg where he had met a young woman several years earlier. He’s trying to find her, or maybe he isn’t? Maybe it’s just the idea of her that he seeks. What a lovely and fascinating walk through this French ville. The achingly sun dappled setting is really the backdrop to a love poem to women. As you begin to recognize some of the women from earlier scenes, you become aware of the ‘stagecraft’. almost a ballet of composition.

Guerin’s film contains some of the most inventive camera montages and framing-reflection techniques that I’ve seen in awhile. Just a stunning visual effort. Most of the people I work with will be watching Porky’s or some such, while I reverently praise films like this. Am I alienated or what?

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