What You Need To Know:
Pagan worldview that romantic love provides the only happiness in a rotten world; 20 obscenities, 2 profanities & 1 mild sexual innuendo; moderate violence such as car breaks man's lower leg, two men hit two women, one woman hits back, man & woman wrestle & fall off bridge into water where they wrestle some more before swimming to safety, man falls into river & presumably drowns, woman shoots ex-lover through door in dream scene, implied & briefly depicted self-mutilation, & man graphically shoots off two of his fingers; couple lies naked on beach after implied fornication & older man hugs woman's half-nude but hidden body; full male & female nudity in two non-sexual shower scenes & totally obscured full nudity after implied fornication; alcohol use, abuse & alcoholism; smoking, drug use & couple spikes men's drinks to steal their money; and, stealing, fighting & self-mutilation.
A French movie about a tempestuous love affair between two homeless people, THE LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE mostly takes place on the oldest bridge in Paris, the Pont Neuf, which underwent repairs about 10 years ago. In 1989, Alex, an alcoholic street performer, meets Michele, a homeless painter who is going blind. With permission from Alex’s older buddy Hans, an unemployed security guard who gives downers to Alex to help him sleep, Michele also makes the bridge her home. She and Alex have an affair, but the obsessive Alex nearly prevents her from getting the operation that will save her eyesight, because he fears losing her.
Director Leos Carax, who also wrote the screenplay, begins his movie with an uncompromising look inside a Paris drunk tank. Two policemen pick up an unconscious Alex in the middle of the street. While unconscious, a car hits his foot and a homeless woman, thinking he’s dead, sketches his portrait. Placing him on a bus full of average drunks and miserable homeless drunks, the cops take him to a filthy detention center. While the police begin to unload the bus, someone says, “Pick up the empties, the bottles and the bodies.” Alex is one of several “empty” bodies on the floor of the bus who must be dragged into the detention center. The movie looks like it was filmed in an actual drunk tank. At one point, a middle-aged man brutally hits a middle-aged woman on the head and is dragged off to someplace else. The hit does not look faked but all too horribly real.
After sleeping off his drunk, Alex returns to the Pont Neuf Bridge under repair, where he has been staying at night. Coincidentally, the woman who sketched his portrait, Michele, has spent the night on the bridge. Alex is intrigued to discover the portrait she had sketched of him the night before he sees her on the bridge. Alex and Michele slowly begin a stormy romantic relationship among the discarded trash on the bridge. Alex finds out Michele has a disease which is making her go blind. Soon, she won’t be able to draw anything anymore.
LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE may be considered daring because it offers a gritty view of life among the homeless on the streets of Paris, but the most exhilarating part of the movie comes when Alex and Michele celebrate together, around the bridge, the bicentennial of France’s 1789 independence, while bunches of fireworks go off around them. As in many French dramas about romantic couples, however, these protagonists display mercurial affections that don’t quite make sense, as if some tortured, but cryptic, past prevents the couple from establishing a constant relationship. This problem occurs even when it seems, at the end of the movie, that Michele and Alex have overcome their homeless situations. Consequently, it just makes this movie a frustrating experience for all but the most uncritical supporters of French cinema.
The primary message of LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE seems to be that human beings are emotionally unstable creatures, and romantic love provides the only true, but fleeting, happiness. The movie implies this message too vaguely, however, and only near the end and in the final shot. It also includes the aforementioned harsh look at situations inside a Paris drunk tank, some graphic nudity, and unsavory alcohol and drug use. Concerning the latter item, Alex and Michele at one point secretly drug the drinks of men sitting at outdoor cafes so that they can steal the men’s money while they’re asleep. Hurting your own body with alcohol and drugs is one thing, but deliberately harming others is another thing entirely. Especially if the filmmakers don’t take pains to show the immorality of such behavior.
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