The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, August 24-30
By Brooklyn Magazine
In the City of Sylvia (2007)
Directed by José Luis Guerín
The funniest Vertigo remake since The Black Dahlia, a knowing, sun-blessed evocation of the power of the look, the eye’s or the camera’s, to capture the present-tenseness of an image, and an elegy to moments fixed in (past) time.
We’re in Strasbourg in summertime, captured in long fixed-camera shots letting busy urban comings-and-goings come and go through the frame—and, before that, a darkened motel room partly illuminated by beams of headlights, which cast shadows on a darkened wall, like projector beams. A young Euro model type hangs out in cafés, first glancing at the murmuring, coffee-sipping, power-napping ladies at the tables around him, and then walking after one through alleys and byways, following a (red-clad, naturally) woman to the center of the labyrinth, in a sequence of forward-moving p.o.v. shots and backward-tracking reverse shots. She is not, it turns out, Sylvia; it’s really creepy to follow people like that, she tells him at last. Who is Sylvia? Is there a Sylvia? He met one, once, six years ago—he would have been six years younger, then, maybe about the same age as a group of schoolgirls he later watches in a park. Probably they’re all Sylvia, in the sense that Sylvia is something lost and unrecoverable, a single frame from a reel that no amount of subsequent viewing can recapture. It’s silly to even try—though that endeavor is the source of this film’s pathos and pleasure as well as its meta-cinematic intellectual slapstick. Mark Asch (August 26, September 1, 9:15pm; August 30, 7pm at Anthology Film Archives’s Guerín retrospective)