Les Amants du Pont Neuf (Lovers on the Bridge) is one of the most expensive French movies ever made This was due in no small part to delays caused by a myriad of logistical and financial difficulties throughout its genesis. Carax was granted three weeks by the authorities to shoot on the bridge but this proved to be insufficient and a replica bridge set was built in a town outside Paris in order to complete the film.
Consequently, the budget spiralled out of control and the production was shut down on several occasions before eventually being rescued by investors. After an initially enthusiastic critical response at the 1991 Cannes film festival, the film opened to indifferent box office and it’s reputation as on of the grand follies of French and indeed European cinema was secured.
Removed from the controversy of it’s troubled production history, Caraxs’ film is for the most part an exhilarating cinematic experience in the purest sense.
An odd romance develops between a homeless street performer Alex (Dennis Lavant) and middle class artist Michelle (Juliette Binoche)who meet by chance underneath the Pont Neuf bridge. Michelle is slowly going blind from a degenerative eye disorder (See also Dancer in the Dark) and the two become friends, companions and lovers and their odd romance, which Carax never really attempts to explain or make much sense of. It is set amidst a Paris backdrop both beautiful and terrifying, grand fairytale and gritty reality.
As a purely visceral cinematic experience, one that celebrates love in all it’s madness and complexity through the directors genius for combining music, movement and colour, Les Amants du Pont Neuf reaches an artistic peak very few film-makers could ever hope to achieve.
In the glorious Bastille Day sequence above, we see the evidence of Caraxs’ struggle and an encapsulation of his ecstatic vision of l’amour fou. The release, the thrill, the pain of life and love. Hearts on fire. A film that is gloriously, recklessly alive.