For Venice audiences and critics, “In the City of Sylvia,” which world preemed there in 2007, established Spaniard Jose Luis Guerin as a talent to track.
Three years later, Guerin is back with a warmly received Venice world premiere, “Guest,” which begins and ends in the city.
Some directors hit the festival circuit, but none perhaps like Guerin. From September 2007 to September 2008 he accepted any fest invitation that came his way, visiting over 40 events.
“Guest” is a videotaped log of his travels, a record of the fests and people the director met along the way.
Mixing vignettes and brief interviews, “Guest” builds as a creative suspenser, a film that searches for its own themes and plot in its chance encounters.
“The film didn’t have a screenplay. It was shot live by a director looking for narrative, characters,” Guerin told Variety in Venice. “It can be seen as a diary, and, as the film advances from city to city, a game of similarities — motifs, words, situations which build in the film.”
One thing Guerin discovered, he said, is the eloquence of street culture in Latin America, as the storytellers, street poets, preachers and artists he meets are “to a certain extent my alter egos.”
While the pic records the hurly-burly world of festivals and the glamour associated with them, it also captures the flip side of the host cities: the devastation — emotional, psychological, physical — of the global poor.
As film critic and scholar Michel Ciment puts it in “Guest,” Guerin plays with the boundaries of fact and fiction, and proved that there is a market for it, albeit small.
Guerin teaches at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra U. and his docu “Under Construction” grossed ?692,675 ($880,000) in Spain.
Other Spanish-language directors — Spain’s Marc Recha and Isaki Lacuesta, Argentina’s Lisandro Alonso, Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas — have followed in Guerin’s wake.
“Some cineastes don’t view screenplays as set in stone,” said Guerin. “Cinema often produces cliches. But there’s the possibility of building stories, shooting live, improvising and then looking for a sense of structure afterwards.”