The more adventurous among you who gave Leos Carax’s recent film Holy Motors a try — and liked it — will certainly want to give his 1991 film The Lovers on the Bridge a try. Even if you didn’t like Holy Motors, this may work for you, since it’s…well, not more “normal” actually, but more accessible in that Carax is at least working from a more straightforward story here. I should warn you that anyone looking for The Lovers to make sense of Holy Motors is apt to be disappointed. Oh, you’ll find a lot of cross-references — Denis Lavant starring again as a character named Alex, the Samaritaine department store, Edith Scob showing up, a similar tone — but no explanations, merely the sense that the two films are part of the same world. The story concerns a pair of drifters — Alex and Michele (Carax’s then-girlfriend Juliette Binoche) — living on the streets of Paris who meet and fall in love. He lives on the Pont-Neuf Bridge, which is closed for repairs, is addicted to sleeping draughts, and ekes out a kind of living a fire-eating street performer. She’s an artist — from a very different social class — who has run away because she’s going blind. Much to the distaste of the old man, Hans (Klaus-Michael Gruber), who controls the bridge (and the sleeping draughts), the two “move in” together. But things take several surprising turns that I’ll not describe here. It took the film eight years to make it to the U.S. — and then only with the support of Martin Scorsese — and it took me a lot longer to catch up with it. It was worth the wait and the effort, because it turns out to be truly extraordinary filmmaking from a unique cinematic voice.
The Asheville Film Society will screen The Lovers on the Bridge Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.