Extravagantly romantic and willfully overblown, The Lovers on the Bridge has become legendary in film buff-dom not only for its unwieldy mix of gorgeousness and incoherence but also for its history: Completed nearly a decade ago by then-31-year-old French auteur Leos Carax, it has been unreleased in the U.S. until now.
Surely distributors have stood behind far more addled and less fascinating artwork than this. Set during the French bicentennial of 1989 when the crumbling Pont Neuf, Paris’ oldest bridge, was closed for repairs, Lovers chronicles the mad-passionate romance of Michele, a memory-haunted artist losing her eyesight (Juliette Binoche), and Alex, a derelict who moonlights as a fire-eating street performer (Denis Lavant). The bridge is their homeless home and their bridge to each other. And when sparks fly, the sky lights up, literally: Carax’s most grandiose daredeviltry — besides building a replica of the Pont Neuf in the south of France — is a sequence in which fireworks go off as the lovers steal a speedboat and zoom up the Seine. At one point, Michele cavorts on water skis. To ask why is, apparently, to miss the boat. B