In the City of Sylvia would be trying if not for the confidence, grace and subtlety with which José Luis Guerín handles his deliberately open-ended material. In Strasbourg, artist Él (Xavier Lafitte) struggles to find inspiration in his cramped bedroom, eventually moving outside to a café where he intently studies the faces and forms – mostly female – that surround him. Employing next to no dialogue, Guerín conveys a sense of being gripped by consuming yearning, which, during a discussion on a sunlit midday train, is revealed to be that Él wishes to find the woman named Sylvia whom he met six years earlier in a nearby bar. This information certainly lends some basic meaning to the long stretches in which Él stares at women’s necks, hands and smiling mouths, as well as the prolonged sequence where he tracks an attractive female (Pilar López de Ayala) through the streets of Strasbourg while meekly calling out “Sylvia.” Yet the specific object of his obsession is rather secondary, as Guerín’s deft, supple compositions – in which background faces appear to be engaged in conversation with unrelated foreground ones, reflections morph and disappear like fleeting apparitions, and the camera patiently lingers on the disparate countenances of the city’s inhabitants – and similarly sensual non-diegetic soundscape express the filmmaker’s primary concerns (memory, desire, the act of (cinematic) watching) in pure visual/aural terms. In the City of Sylvia is entrancing and, more strikingly, engaging, its obliqueness inducing constant audience supposition and exploration. And if its fill-in-the-blanks vagueness ultimately causes the film, like a fleeting daydream, to slightly dissipate in one’s mind and heart shortly after its conclusion, such elusiveness doesn’t preclude one’s in-the-moment sensory experience from being bracing.