In The City Of Sylvia

In The City Of Sylvia


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

What would be a great idea for a 20-minute short may be a disaster as a feature film and that is the case with the latest from José Luis Guerín.

A young man (Xavier Lafitte) sits in his hotel room, gazing into space, or scribbling into a notebook. Then he goes to the local café and does it again, with people, particularly a girl, watching. He draws women with few features and generally looks like a lovelorn poet.

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This goes on for about 30 minutes. It could be more. You feel your will to live give a whimper, make its excuses and start heading for the bar. In fact, you begin to wonder whether it wouldn’t be more interesting to go and actually sit in a street café yourself and watch the world go by, rather than be forced to watch this particular slice of it. Certainly alcohol might help.

There is a specific girl that the man is seeking and, for a moment, he thinks he has found her. At least, it would be a moment, possibly even a poignant one, in a short film, but here it represents another 20-30 minutes of frustrated wandering through the back streets of a nameless town.

There is fractionally more plot, but not a lot, and certainly not enough to justify 84 minutes. Guerín has a painterly eye and a naturalistic style, so that you could be watching an observational documentary, if it wasn't for the artifice of the lovelorn one’s sketchpad.

He evokes a good sense of place through incredibly spare dialogue, letting the sounds of the street flood over the (in)action. All this is not enough to make you care, however. What is intended to be a poem to unrequited love becomes a test of the viewer’s patience. Also, forgive me fellas, but only a man would think that stalking a woman is a romantic gesture.

Reviewed on: 04 Oct 2007
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A boy dreams of finding a lost love.
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Adam Micklethwaite **

Director: José Luis Guerín

Writer: José Luis Guerín

Starring: Xavier Lafitte, Pilar López de Ayalam, Michaël Balerdi, Laurence Cordier, Tanja Czichy, Gladys Deussner, Eric Dietrich, Charlotte Dupont, Philippe Ohrel

Year: 2007

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Spain

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