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Lovers On The Bridge

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It took eight years for French critic-turned-director Léos Carax's deliriously romantic Les Amants du Pont Neuf—Miramaxed to translate Lovers On The Bridge—to finally get distribution in America, and in that time, its reputation has ballooned to mythic proportions. Due to runaway production costs, which included building a full-scale replica of Paris' famed Pont Neuf bridge over a Montpellier lake, the film was the most expensive in the country's history and a colossal flop at that, leading financiers to demand too much money for the American rights. Now that the wait is over, watching Carax's uninhibited, gleefully self-indulgent l'amour fou feels like discovering the missing link, a single spark of inspiration that ignited the current (underrated) decade of French cinema. Hovering in its own unique space between dingy, underclass reality and poetic artifice, Lovers On The Bridge is a love story that nearly empties the enchanted Paris streets to make way for its heroes' whims. Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche star as a fire-spitting street performer and a near-blind painter, respectively, who fall in love on the deeply symbolic Pont Neuf, a decaying landmark closed for restoration. The more Binoche's sight diminishes, the stronger Lavant's obsessive hold on her affections—that is, until insane twists of fate lead the couple in unexpected directions. Though no one could accuse him of being a polished storyteller, Carax the impressionist keeps this tenuous affair alive on sheer cinematic gusto. In what should be considered one of the greatest sequences ever committed to film—on par with the 10-minute take of highway carnage in Weekend, the baptism montage in The Godfather, and so on—Lavant and Binoche drunkenly cavort in front of a spectacular recreation of the bicentennial fireworks display, as booming music from Public Enemy to Strauss spills in for their sole benefit. Then it somehow tops itself with something even more extravagant. Lovers On The Bridge doesn't always work, but Carax has a heightened sense of romance that's far too intoxicating to resist.