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March 14, 2017

The Lovers on the Bridge

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Les Amants du Pont-Neuf
Leos Carax - 1991
Kino Classics BD Region A

At one point in The Lovers on the Bridge, Michele, a painter suffering from a degenerative eye disease describes what she sees as flashing blurry light. Sometimes I feel like I'm only seeing the surface of a movie, the images, the basic narrative, but I'm missing the deeper meanings.

For some, it may be enough that Leos Carax's film in available as a blu-ray disc, it the correct aspect ratio. But it's helpful also to read Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's essay, and the video essay by Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez Lopez. The video essay opens with a quote from Jean Vigo's L'Atalante about seeing the face of one's true love in the water. The quote refers to the moment of mutual recognition of the feelings that Alex and Michele have for each other, almost drowning while gazing in each others' eyes in the Seine, and rescued by a passing barge, similar to that of Vigo's film. The association with Vigo's film was so strong for me that I kept thinking that Michel Simon should be making a cameo appearance.

Somehow, not mentioned by anyone is that the eye doctor who cures Michele is named Destouches. Maybe any discussion of Louis-Ferdinand Celine is likely to open a particularly messy can of worms. But the final shots in The Lovers on the Bridge do evoke the last lines from Journey to the End of the Night especially - Far away, the tugboat hooted; calling across the bridge, the arches one by one, a lock, another bridge, further, further away.

The last name of Michele also happens to be Stalens, the last name of Juliette Binoche's mother.

Not much is known about Alex, the shambling mess of a young man, addicted to drugs and alcohol, who calls the aged Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris his home. Michele is an artist, plagued by memories of a lost love, rapidly losing her eyesight. These two are more battered and injured than the bridge, itself due for repairs. The story of the making of the film might be an even greater example of l'amour fou, with Carax first envisioning an intimate film shot in 8mm, only to take almost three years with star Denis Lavant injuring himself, filming taking place both on the real bridge and on an elaborate set, and production held up by uncertain financing.

What might be remembered most about The Lovers on the Bridge are some of the striking images - a lateral tracking shot of Binoche and Levant racing down the street against the soundtrack of David Bowie's "Time will Crawl", Levant's breathing fire while performing a cartwheel, and Lavant and Binoche and a sky full of fireworks.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 14, 2017 07:10 AM