A 'Bridge' worth crossing

Critic's choice: Film

February 13, 2000|By Ann Hornaday

Leos Carax's "The Lovers on the Bridge" ("Les Amants du Pont Neuf") is one of the most famous troubled movies of all time, the stuff of movie-making legend and hagiography (when Film Comment asked critics to name the most important unreleased foreign films, it placed second only to Jean-Luc Godard's "Nouvelle Vague").

Baltimore audiences are finally able to judge for themselves whether Carax's movie is worth those laurels, not to mention its famed budget, production battles and extravagant set (Carax constructed an almost full-scale replica of Paris's Pont Neuf and its Left and Right banks). Released last summer by Martin Scorsese and Miramax Films, "The Lovers on the Bridge" will make its way to the Charles Theatre for a two-day run Tuesday and Wednesday.

Juliette Binoche stars as an embittered artist who is gradually going blind and Denis Lavant plays an alcoholic fire-eater in this bedraggled love story about two outcasts who live on the Pont Neuf, the epitome of romance and history that in Carax's view becomes a metaphor for a city's troubled transition to an uncertain future.

Binoche delivers a fierce performance that turns her angelic persona on its pretty little head; Lavant deploys his considerable physical talents to resemble a raggedly vulnerable Pierrot. But the true star of "The Lovers on the Bridge" is Carax's bravura filmmaking, which blends harrowing realism with flights of startling visual fancy. Even with a wildly implausible and melodramatic story, the 39-year-old director coaxes unforgettable images from his camera, among them a long, ecstatic dance in front of exploding fireworks and the fugitive beauty of Paris at dawn. "The Lovers on the Bridge" is well worth a look, if only to see what all the fuss has been about.

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