Leos Carax’s The Lovers on the Bridge easily is something that could come off as any conventional love story based on the premise alone but it is the traces of his own trademarks that ultimately set everything apart. While I’ve certainly had the introduction to his work through his 2012 film Holy Motors, it was interesting enough to see the roots to what he was building up to come about in The Lovers on the Bridge, an intriguing if somewhat conventional take on the romance genre. It lies in Carax’s touches though that make The Lovers on the Bridge as fascinating a piece of work as it stands, even if there is another level to where I do find it leaves me somewhat cold. It’s a problem that seems to have stuck with me from my first viewing, but a rewatch certainly didn’t help.
Not so much new is present on the outside of The Lovers on the Bridge, as we have two people of differing qualities suffering one way or another coming together – he is a homeless alcoholic and she is a woman who is slowly growing blind. Admittedly this sounds rather conventional (and to some extent, it is), but even with that laid out, Leos Carax’s explorations of the facets of the relationship are what form the effectiveness of The Lovers on the Bridge. Carax’s film is indeed an affecting one in the sense that it never sinks down to any cheap level of sentimentality or melodrama. The tragedy of Carax’s lovers makes for something interesting in the sense that even though they are already deprived of something one way or another, and as the film progresses, they only lose more and more – but never in a manner that everything becomes so forced down.
Leos Carax’s flashy style is yet another thing that also helps The Lovers on the Bridge stand out from all other romance films. While it’s never put out to the fullest as he went all out with it in Holy Motors, it’s interesting to at least observe the traces of his own development linger throughout The Lovers on the Bridge. Carax flashes all out with it, creating a unique appeal to his own tragedy, as he places viewers within the perspectives of an ordinary driver within the streets of Paris at night, developing into a realm of New Wave techniques giving the film a sort-of punk appeal. There’s a very dark sense of humour to be found within some scenes that come along, although when it comes around, it feels so out of the blue because it is so distinctly brooding and cynical at least when it comes to how it is handling a unique approach to any ordinary love story.
The performances from the leads are always a delight to watch, for Juliette Binoche is as captivating as she has always been, and in The Lovers on the Bridge, one of her best performances is certainly to be found. Paired together with the excellent Denis Lavant, something all the more worthwhile is presented for the bond which they form is something strengthened by the beauty of what created the characters that they are. Both of them are two destroyed souls who are in search of something that is missing from their life in order to regain a sense of happiness once again, only to be led into much more consequences within no time – the beauty that comes from the bond between the two of them is clear even if it may not be something all that new for the romance genre to explore, although Carax certainly is trying.
While The Lovers on the Bridge most certainly is unique at least within the methods it uses to keep its story moving forward, there’s a specific reason it still leaves me cold to some level. It’s most certainly flattering to see that under Leos Carax’s direction, something unique is attempting to come out, but unfortunately it can’t seem to hide what is made blatant from the basic outlining, it still feels far too conventional and it does not do much to provide as much surprise as it should have. There’s a certain point to which The Lovers on the Bridge ends up falling into the depths of predictability for it does ramble quite a bit especially within the middle, but even with the unique coating provided, it is never able to hide or better yet, re-imagine what is already so basic from its bare movement.
Still, it’s more interesting than a handful of romance films given these days for at least even with the basic roots it still feels genuine enough and Carax’s direction gives a unique spin. I only wish that for how off-the-walls Leos Carax can be with some of his films, he could have done something to offer a standout from most other takes because one can take out the distinguishable visual style applied onto The Lovers on the Bridge and thus, nothing much would be changing if we are to talk about the mannerisms to which the plot is flowing. What does make up for it though are the performances especially from the two leads, who always keep every moment worth watching and offer something rather moving from their tragedy.
Watch a clip right here.
All images via Gaumont.
Directed by Leos Carax
Screenplay by Leos Carax
Produced by Christian Fechner
Starring Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant
Release Year: 1991
Running Time: 125 minutes