December 12, 2008
In the City of Sylvia."In the City of Sylvia is pure pleasure and pure cinema," writes J Hoberman. "The fifth feature by Catalan filmmaker José Luis Guerín (shown once at the 2007 New York Film Festival) celebrates the love of looking, while placing a crafty minimalist spin on the Orpheus myth." In the New York Times, Nathan Lee finds Sylvia to be "a frequently hypnotic, if sometimes irritating, meditation on the act of looking. What women will make of this picture - the sine qua non of chic, formalist exercises predicated on the 'male gaze' - I can't presume to guess.... The rigorously geometric cat-and-mouse sequence that follows is more irksome, both for the all-too-obvious debt to Vertigo (and the many highbrow stalker films it has inspired) and for the sense that Mr Guerin has stopped making a movie and has started advancing a proposition that's he's obligated to complete." Update, 12/13. "To allegorize the man's search is certainly possible, but considering the anonymity of the city, the abstraction of the search, and the incredible, lucid, and devastating interactions he eventually has with the city's women after his ardent, almost too-fixated stalking, it would be a disservice to the simple, sublime artistry of In the City of Sylvia to tie it down to a static, stable meaning." Daniel Kasman in the Auteurs' Notebook: "The film's vision of life, of cinema, and of life as cinema—as searching for recognition, reclaiming memories, furrowing through a tumult of incredible sounds and visions to find that meaning so personal to the viewer—is one that lucidly, powerfully, and mournfully rejects the satisfaction of such concreteness." "There's a faint air of enchantment here, in the Grimm Rhineland facades of Strasbourg, the 'missed connections' longing, an encounter on the tram... that abstractly recollects the trolley of Murnau's Sunrise," writes Nick Pinkerton in indieWIRE. "At times this can all threaten winsomeness, thanks in part to [Xavier] Lafitte's achingly stereotypical 'pale poet' vibe - the well-molded face, dandyish vest, sculpted tousle. But Guerin's fable sometimes elegantly traces the outlines of an inchoate feeling." "Bound for a slot in countless cinema studies curricula because it puts film theory into practice, the near-plotless and dialogueless In the City of Sylvia alternates endlessly between views of subject and object, the gazer and the gazee," writes Henry Stewart in the L Magazine. "It's like cinema as people-watching on a lazy summer afternoon." Natasha Braier is "one of the best cinematographers at work today," writes James Van Maanen, and her "work is probably the most important element in Mr. Guerín's movie; the quiet precision with which she captures every object simply blew me away (she makes even the inside of an auto-bus, below, look special), yet this is nothing like the necessarily showy, ground-breaking cinematography, she gave us in Glue." Online viewing tip. "I recently received the film on DVD, and have watched it about six times in the past few days," writes Filmbrain. "Yes, it's that good. As a gift, I thought I'd share 5:30 of the film with you." At Anthology Film Archives through December 18. Earlier: Ryland Walker Knight, Jennifer Stewart and Kevin B Lee exchanged thoughts and linkage in April. Parts 1, 2 and 3. Update, 12/13: "Guerín ultimately points up his character as a potentially unsavory voyeur (though also perhaps a hopeless romantic)," writes Andrew Schenker, "but only by entering the sensory headspace of this questionable young man have we been able to experience such richly satisfying moments of aesthetic immersion."
Posted by dwhudson at December 12, 2008 6:44 AM