The City of No Limits Review
En La Ciudad Sin Límites (The City of No Limits) is an interesting if lesser known and less elaborate recent Spanish/Argentinean film that effectively takes the paranoiac elements of Abre Los Ojos and Intacto but delivers a thriller with a rather more human and emotional dimension.
Victor (Leonardo Sbaraglia) travels from Argentina to meet up with his Spanish family who have gathered at a Parisian hospital where their father Max (Fernando Fernán Gómez) is slowly dying from cancer. Victor is concerned by his father’s behaviour. He appears paranoid and delusional, afraid that he is being held captive, not taking his medication, phoning a number that doesn’t exist and looking for a man called Rancel. Victor’s inquiries all lead to dead-ends, but he himself starts to become suspicious of the behaviour of his mother (Geraldine Chaplin) and other members of the family, so he agrees to help his father escape from the hospital.
The film successfully operates as a paranoid thriller, but it is the internal family trouble and in-fighting elements that give the film a much greater resonance and impact, bringing the film closer in style and theme to Patrice Chereau’s Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train than Amenábar’s Abre Los Ojos. En La Ciudad… resembles Chereau’s film in more ways than one however, with Fernando Fernán Gómez’s aged, fragile appearance making him physically look like Jean-Louis Trintignant, as well as being his Spanish equivalent in stature as an actor. The other characters are similarly well-developed and portrayed; Leonardo Sbaraglia building on the star status that he achieved in Spanish film Intacto, Ana Fernández (Solas) providing a strong counter-balance as Carmen, the wife of Victor’s elder brother. The relationship that once existed between them and the potential still there mirrors the theme that persists through the film that there are many paths that a life and relationships can take. Max retains to the end of his life one great secret and one deep regret and is searching for a way to go back and undo the terrible mistake he made in the past that still haunts him. He finds in Victor a son who is willing to help his father and wants to understand him. The film slowly unravels the mystery element of the story to an emotional heart that is both touching without being sentimental and worthy of the plot and intrigue that has gone before.
En La Ciudad Sin Límites is released on DVD in Spain by Sogepaq. The DVD is double-sided DVD10 disc with the 116 minute theatrical release of the film included on one single layer side and the director’s longer 122 minute cut on the flip side, also single layer. The Spanish release can be bought (at the moment for under €7) at DVDGo or Fnac. There is also a Region 1 edition of the film available as part of Fox's Cinema Latino Collection.
The theatrical version of the film is presented at 2.35:1 anamorphic and the image is good, clear and sharp with only the slightest touch of edge-enhancement visible on occasions. There are a few too many marks and dust-spots on the print, but in the main this is not a problem. Of more concern is the fact that the DVD10 disc causes occasional digital break-up in the image on a small section of the screen. It never gets too bad, but I did spot this on about six or seven occasions. Otherwise the picture is fine with strong colours, solid blacks and good brightness levels.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack works well without needing to be showy or over-using the surrounds. The dialogue is mainly centre–speaker based with wider use of the stereo and surrounds being used for the music score which is rich and warmly presented.
Side A of the disc contains detailed biographies and selected Filmographies of the director and principal cast and a Trailer (1.31), all in Spanish. Side B contains the Director’s Cut of the film, non-anamorphic, letterboxed at 2.35:1 with a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and no subtitles. The additional 6 minutes neither adds to nor alters the film in any substantial way. The travelling between Madrid and Paris which is not clear in the theatrical version is better explained, as is Carmen’s presence in both places. The quality of the director’s cut is quite good despite the lesser technical specification.
En La Cuidad Sin Límites is a strong film, an effective thriller with an emotional heart that displays some of the best Spanish acting talent around at the moment. It is worthy of wider interest, despite some of the technical shortcomings of the DVD release.