a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

In the City of Sylvia / En la ciudad de Sylvia

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Catalan director Jose Luis Guerin’s masterpiece In the City of Sylvia is like a Hitchcock film abstracted through the eyes – and ears – of Robert Bresson. Apart from the stunning visuals, Sylvia’s sound design mesmerizes. A twenty something young man (Xavier Lafitte) comes to Strasbourg. He spends a day at a café, sketching customers, sees a beautiful brunette (Pilar López de Ayala) whom he begins to follow.  After a long an abstract and labyrinthine cat and mouse game, he finally accosts her in a tram convinced she is Sylvia, a woman he met 6 years earlier.  Guardedly responding to her stalker, she says she isn’t. He apologizes profusely. Later that night he goes to a bar and picks up a young woman. The next day finds him at a bus stop, people watching and eventually seeing “Sylvia” again on a passing tram.  With this simple backbone, Guerin builds a strange, beguiling and touching film. Part essay in cinematic voyeurism, part reflection on obsession, desire and mystery, In the City of Sylvia is a wholly original cinematic experience.

Published in EL Magazine, August 2010

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