In The City Of Sylvia (DVD pick of the week)
Movie review by guest writer Seema Misra who blogs at La La Land and Reel Life & Seema’s Art Corner
“Others will dream that I am mad,
and I of the Zahir.
When all men on earth think day and night of the Zahir,
which one will be a dream and which a reality, the earth or the Zahir?”
-Jorge Luis Borges
José Luis Guerin, a Spanish filmmaker and educator, is amongst the most innovative European filmmakers. In ‘In the City of Sylvia’ he portrays a young man in search of a woman, Sylvia, whom he met years ago, a dreamlike memory of his, almost frozen in time.
The protagonist referred simply as ‘He’ waits in a hotel and sketches the people there. His sketch pad is a myriad of frenzied capturing of expressions, hand movements, lips, napes, jaw lines, face cuts, body movements, almost making the people faceless. Snippets of conversations and fleeting images of people, through his gaze, an artist’s gaze — one that lingers a little longer than necessary, makes up most of the movie.
And in this possessed search for his Zahir, a woman in red ‘Pilar López de Ayala’ appears in his view, refracted by a mirror…and thus begins a chase through the winding city streets of Strasberg. “Laure Je T’aime”—a bit of graffiti keeps anchoring the viewer and reminding us of the circularity of the search. Also, he keeps running into the same people … giving us a very small town feel. He calls out to her once, and she just moves on faster, keeping us guessing till there is a confrontation in the train, that runs through the city and had earlier threatened to separate the two.
Devoid of any language this movie is haunting and appealing on a very sensory level, at the same time an intelligent portrayal of the human condition. One example would be the old lady sitting by the road side in dirty tatters and the beer can rolling out of her hand – the sound of its rolling motion continuing long after the can was out of view. It is such detailed attention to the city sounds and other visual nuances that appeal on a subliminal way to the viewer. This movie is like a painting, which flows beautifully into many colors, many emotions … it’s an artist’s perusal of his muse; it’s the unforgettable fragrance of love…
As an interesting companion to the movie José Luis Guerin has created a photo exhibition called Unas fotos en la ciudad de Sylvia in which beautiful black and white digital cinematography alternates between moving and still images, stitching together a cinematic sketchbook for In the City of Sylvia.
J. Hoberman aptly says “In the City of Sylvia is pure pleasure and pure cinema.”
Ed Wood – Review
Tim Burton and JohnnyDepp combo is always guaranteed to give you something different .Example? – Edward Scissorhands, Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Ed wood… Oh you haven’t heard of Ed wood? Well then, Ed wood it is today, but before that let me give you a few background details. Ed wood is a biopic. A biopic or a biographical picture.
And now who was Ed Wood. Jr- A hero? A great martyr? Rock star? Freedom fighter? Ah no! There lies the first “it’s different” point. He was no hero rather Ed Wood was voted the worst director of all times and a cross dresser to boot.
2nd “its different “point is that though it is a 1994 movie, it has been made in black and white to give the feel of the 1930s and forty’s to which Ed Wood belonged . The costumes, mannerisms, sets bears no resemblance to its ninety’s production period. There are other ‘it’s different’ points too, but we will come to that later
This Tim Burton directed movie starred along with Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker and was commercially not well received, but was critically acclaimed and won the Oscar for Martin Landau and for the best make up. Though it was Depp who starred in the title role of Ed Wood, it was Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, who walked away with all the awards, but that doesn’t mean that Johnny Depp wasn’t good. It just meant Landau was better.
Now let’s proceed on to the plot and scenes. The movie opens with some spooky effects and shows a house with a coffin which opens up, and the coffin occupant giving a speech to this effect
Greetings, my friends! You are interested in the unknown. The mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing you the full story of what happened. We are giving you all the evidence based only on the secret testimony of the miserable souls who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, faces. My friends, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Can your heart stand the shocking facts of the true story of Edward D. Wood Jr.?
Now does that give the idea, that we are about to watch something supernatural, something like a thriller? But that is just a ‘different’ way of presenting the picture.
The plot goes thus-Ed wood junior is an aspiring movie maker and a horror movie buff, who idolizes Orson Welles, the Citizen Kane director and star, and one who never has it easy while trying to realize his dreams of making great movies (it’s another matter that movies aren’t too great). The budget constraints literally force him to complete his ideas into films, by hook or crook , be it using inappropriate stock footage, or using anything available as set props even if it requires stealing it from the Warner brothers, or casting anyone who has a little money to finance the movie or even shooting 30 scenes a day and wrapping up a whole movie in 5 days time , but what really touches your heart is his never say die optimistic attitude, a kind of innocence in his belief and trust in what he envisions, no matter how weird and half baked they are. By a chance meeting he comes across Bela Lugosi, an aging vampire movie star whom he idolises, and from then on begins a different kind of relationship or friendship, built on failure and hope. Lugosi is a star of a bygone era who is into drugs, where as Ed Wood, over and above being low on finance and a failure, does not do well in his personal relationship either, due to his fetish for cross dressing .Two movies follow with Bela Lugosi, with the help of some Ed Wood loyalists who are also quite a set- A wrestler, A phony psychic, a gay, A vampire show hostess. Well no the Vampire show hostess or Vampira comes later, in fact she stars as a mute only in the third movie. The first two movies are Glen or Glenda – a movie on transvestitism, in which Wood acted too as it was a subject close to his heart, and Bride of the monster, a horror movie. In fact there is a hilarious scene of the frail Lugosi having to shoot a water fight scene for Bride of the Monster with a stolen rubber octopus without the motor, so you can very well imagine how it turns out…Ed Wood is trashed by everyone starting from his producers, to the audiences to the critics ( and they aren’t wrong for a change-another “its different point”) but his spirit never ebbs, even after being dumped by his girlfriend and Bela almost dying due to his morphine addiction. He still plans for this one final movie with his idol and friend Bela. But Bela soon dies after shooting some test shots. But again, Ed still goes ahead with his weird project touting it as the last movie of Bela Lugosi and which he feels is The movie that will be associated with Wood, using the stock footage of him and using a double whose face he hides behind a cape. By then he had found the love of his life too. That part is another hilarious account of funds arrangement, star management, and manipulation. The movie reminded me of Jaane bhi do yaaron even though Ed Wood is not a satire, but the struggles, the clichés of Hollywood definitely reminds me of it. Does Wood create the masterpiece he craves for? So is this movie about human triumph? No not in the real sense, but it’s instead one of a never say die attitude and standing by one’s beliefs. And no he is far from creating a masterpiece though he believes that he has.
Ed Wood though obviously not a man to be extolled for his movie making skills, was still made likeable and adorable by Burton in his projection in this Biopic, an opinion that many shared in Hollywood later on.
Johnny Depp does a good job of Ed Wood, but Landau steals the thunder from him as the eccentric yet vulnerable Lugosi. Sarah Jessica Parker has nothing much to do except look her part. Others do well as their intentional stereotyped roles.
Let me also list some of the hilarious scenes of the movie to get you going for it.
- Ed Wood calls his girlfriend poodles. Poodles! Oh my God!
- Wood to a Producer- “You think that is the worse movie you have ever seen? (about one of his movie) Well this one will be better than that.” And Depp looked so stupidly cute when he said that.
- The fake octopus scene. (That I had mentioned earlier.)
- Wood and his entourage are chased away from a premiere of their movie by the crowd, and they literally run for their lives but Wood still has that silly expression on him.
Well, I am a sucker for Tim Burton movies because of his out of the box ideas so I cannot give you an unbiased opinion. Ah here I have to mention the background score. It is eerily worth mentioning. In fact you will find swaying away to it like a spirit in trance.
GingerChai Verdict- A definite watch if you love Burton and Depp and if you love out of box presentations.