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June 10, 2007

The Bridge

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Un Pont entre Deux Rives
Gerard Depardieu & Frederic Auburtin - 1999
Fox Lorber Region 1 DVD

The images of Carole Bouquet riding her bicycle made me think back to Bernadette Lafont on a bicycle in Francois Truffaut's short Les Mistons. The opening shot of The Bridge is of the matinee audience leaving the town's movie theater, where Jules and Jim is playing. Truffaut is also recalled when two teenage lovers are bicycling down the road. The Bridge is certainly the type of film Truffaut could have done, with its dual portraits of young love, and a marriage falling apart due to infidelity. The film takes place in 1962 and for several of the characters, Ideas of love are informed by movies and popular culture.

When Bouquet meets the man who will be her lover, Charles Berling, in the theater, West Side Story is onscreen. The billboard outside the theater announces the film as an "evenent", an event. It was at that moment that I thought back how American filmmakers have shied back from love stories, once a staple of mainstream cinema. This may in part explain why Titanic was so popular. In the pursuit of an audience of young men, romance, especially serious romance, has been left for to be explored by the so-called indie filmmakers. When the teen boy and girl discuss The Misfits, one can not imagine any recent film that could carry the mythic weight of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, together, and in what turned out to be the final film for both actors. It seems odd to think that at a time of frankness about sex, contemporary filmmakers and much of the audience is uncomfortable with unabashed declarations of love.

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Heard but not seen, is an excerpt from Henri Verneiul's A Monkey in Winter. As he ages, Gerard Depardieu has developed the kind of lived-in face and experience with the world that makes him the successor to Monkey's Jean Gabin and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Depardieu has always had an iconic presence, but seeing him age, the sense is that both he and French cinema share a mutually dependent existence. Depardieu and Bouquet have worked several times before, most famously in Too Beautiful for You. As a woman of "a certain age", Bouquet reminds me of Romy Schneider in that the youthful prettiness may have faded to be replaced by a sense of knowing conveyed in the smile.

The title is ironic in that while Depardieu helps build the bridge that Berling works on as an engineer, a bridge serves to link people whereas the bridge in this film destroys several relationships. Bouquet and the teenage lovers look to run away from their respective homes. Houses are not homes, but temporary shelters for people who have chosen to be transient. That several of the characters feel the need to escape in the name of an ideal relationship suggests the title of another Truffaut film, Love on the Run.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 10, 2007 08:08 PM