I have a fondness with concentrated observation, and observation of sound in particular while moving through it. E.g. in a car moving through traffic, how to discern individual sound in the cacophony? It ties in with the true perception sought in meditation, the much sought embodiment that everything is empty and everything is in flux. With the right concentration even the most distressing cacophony of street traffic becomes a series of small events that arise and disappear - what is constant is the silence from which they arise and which is wonderfully impregnated with all possible sound.
There is a rich tradition of Zen Masters who, according to legend, attained their enlightenment at the ringing of a distant temple bell. And there is that parable about the awakened mind as a butterfly quietly resting on a bell. Even the Tibetans of the 'Diamond Vehicle', the most esoteric of all and riddled with ritual, stress the importance of allowing right concentration to be guided by the ear.
Heck, even the hack writers of those unimaginative and strictly practical 'make-your-own-film' guides stress the importance of good sound. They have intuitively grasped that it makes film come alive. Now images can play tricks to the mind like a cat chases after a piece of string, but sound is always true when perceived. Dreams are full of vivid imagery but empty of sound.
So it is always interesting to me to be able to slip into a film that has created a rich tappestry of sound; the effect is always aural, like a glove in which the concentrated mind can fit. Antonioni was a master of this, and more recently others like the Coens and Weeresethakul.
Guided by the ear, we discover here a city in motion. I prefer this to be tied to an adventurous camera, but here what moves is the world - usually we are fixed in place, the characters or camera. It is all about those fleeting glimpses of people fixed in place as the world moves, a world mute with answers but full with the buzz of life. And about reflections as those fleeting glimpses cast for a moment then gone again, fixed on faces in glass panels or behind them, in advertising billboards, or mute faces in a cafe obscuring one the other.
The eye casts upon this fleeting world its own associations of meaning and narrative, a last measure of holding on - here abstracted as the pursuit around town of the girl Sylvia, always elusive. The young portrait painter seeking her is always sketching faces in his book, hoping to contain what escapes him and finally surmise the elusive. But his sketches are equally mute with answers, pencil strokes unfinished suggesting vague outlines to be filled. The last sketch in his sketch book is the blank face of a woman beckoning "ssh!", the next pages are blank. A wind tosses the pages helter skelter.
Resnais was there some decades ago with Marienbad. Antonioni in a way. Yoshida, as transfiguring these two into his own rhetoric. Like those films, Sylvia is also a visualized drone about people caught in disparate planes of existence, fumbling each behind his own glass panel view of the world.
It's fine stuff, though being so distinctly French it will not arouse cinematic maelstroms. Or perhaps it will if it falls on the right ears, those transcendent shots of reflections and silhouettes on moving trains. It's a worthy film that you should watch.
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