Brimming with stylistic flourishes, THE LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE is a deliriously mad love story isnít as ordinary as the title may suggest. Juliette Binoche plays Michele, a homeless woman helplessly going blind who befriends and then falls in love with a scruffy homeless street punk named Alex (Denis Levant). Alex, who has a violent streak and needs drugs to slow down at night, is not exactly the kind of guy a leading lady falls in love with, but then again Binoche is way dressed down with scraggly hair, browned teeth, loose baggy clothing and an eye-patch.

Together, along with another irascible homeless guy (Daniel Buain), they live out their days and nights on the bridge that spans the Seine in Paris, that for some reason is closed for renovation. They stay alive by occasionally taking trips into the wider city to steal food or money to buy booze.

Michele is an artist who has an unknown background although itís hinted that she is running away from a failed relationship. Alex on the other hand -- who occasionally does a circus fire act -- seems lost in his squalid little world as he limps around recovering from an injury he receives in the film's first scene. Together they are a beautiful mess.

The movie poses two questions: Will these two really fall in love? and (more importantly) will the people who love Michele find her in time to restore her sight? The movie builds a good amount of tension around this point because Alexís obsessive motivations are to keep her close to him no matter what happens since she is all he has. Even if it means letting her go blind.

Their love is one of these impossible loves that only happen in movies. Director Leos Carax doesnít lose sight of this fact because the movie is always stylistically self-conscious even during the realistic emotional moments.

Carax is the true autuer of the film and via the editing and the shot selection he stages one dazzling scene after another. The movie is exceptionally well shot by Jean-Yves Escoffier, who shot GUMMO and GOOD WILL HUNTING. The combination of the accomplished techniques is especially impressive during a wild scene on the night of Franceís 1989 Bicentennial. The scene is a celebration all by itself with booming, blaring fireworks, a cacophony of music and the two lovers prancing about like pagans at a post millennium party.

The film takes narrative chances both stylistically (editing and pace mainly) and in its tumultuous love story (which seems unrealistic). Because of this one of the main criticisms of the film is that the style outweighs the content. The other is who would believe Binoche would fall for such a runt? The first is answered by Caraxís mastery of his visual style. In this age of MTV style nonsense the editing of this film at least tries to logically make a connection between shots without wasting any of them. Most significantly the film was made in 1992 in France at a time when MTV hadnít really infected world cinema. The latter criticism cannot be answered except by surrendering to the implausible love story.

The real question is why has such a fabulous film made at the beginning of the 90s taken so long to get here? Especially given the fact that it has been considered by many to be the best foreign film not released in this country this decade. It partly could be that the social subject matter and the extravagant styles together make the film a financial risk. That hasnít stopped many distributors in the past from picking up lesser films.

Miramax picked it up about a year ago and now has decided to take it off of their shelf and release it to a few theaters. This strategy wonít pull in much business but for the reputation alone (as well as getting a chance to see the dirt under Binocheís fingernails) is enough reason to recommend the film.
© Matt Langdon - iF Magazine

review 1
review 2
review 3
review 4
photo gallery
enter your email to receive update news
Mr. Nobody (Jaco Van Dormael) ?
other surveys 

this month's featured album

composer | soundtrack | movie | director | forum | search | musicolog


© 1998 - 2018
design, content and code: mete