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A stunning sensual odyssey,
This review is from: In The City Of Sylvia [DVD]  (DVD)
In the City of Sylvia is that rarest of things..an almost unique cinematic experience.
Let's start by getting the obvious out of the way:
This film contains little to almost no dialogue, has the flimsiest of narratives and is in absolutely no hurry to get anywhere.
If this doesn't, at the very least, intrigue you then I'd suggest you steer well clear.
The opening sequence of a young man staring into space, silently addressing an unspoken dilemma is a definite teaser of things to come.
The film is cut into three segments (Night 1, Night 2 and Night 3)which create a very relevant and coherent structure for the ensuing tale.
The young man walks through town and visits a cafe where he sits and observes those around him. Sometimes he sketches the other customers but often he is simply our eyes at the table and unhurriedly watches them...focusing specifically on the women. We hear snatches of indistinct conversation and gradually start to notice the overlaying ambient sound-scape of everyday life. The camera wanders from face to face, to backs of heads, to hands and we are invited to scrutinise at length. We watch how people move, how they watch others and even how hair blows in the gentlest of breezes. Some juxtapositions are jokingly deceptive but the visual compostion is always fascinating. People close-up being seemingly kissed by other people further away, couples who appear together actually being on separate tables with separate partners. The film lazily basks in this glorious reverie and we find ourselves sinking deep into its languorous rhythm.
The young man is suddenly removed from this dreamy state by the appearance of a woman who we have already noticed through the window behind him. He gets up from his table and follows her, eventually getting closer and finally calling out "Sylvie?".
To say more would spoil what plot there is but this film is certainly not there for plot reasons. This action serves as a device to create the three distinct sections and moods of the film itself.
At risk of sounding awfully pretentious this is an audio-visual symphony which is almost a love-letter to the city itself (Strasbourg) and to the complex ballet of how people move within a city and in relation to each other.
The absence of any traffic allows every other sound to act as the vibrant soundtrack to this exceptional sensual odyssey.
The street scenes are just as amazing as the cafe scenes. Long static "takes" of the streets before and after the characters have passed through give a real feel to the location and then you start to notice the other people. You think "Isn't that the man I saw earlier outside the hotel?" and "I'm sure that girl was at the cafe earlier." As the film progresses you begin to identify totally with the beautifully crafted sense of place.
This is a stunning and lovingly created film with many, many, subtle pleasures not least the knowledge that people are still able to make films like this celebrating the medium and the art rather than merely pandering to the baser pleasures of mainstream cinema.