Les Amants du Pont Neuf - A
Viewed July 5, 1999 at Film Forum

Leos Carax's celebrated Les Amants du Pont Neuf has finally made it into Stateside release after eight years in distributor limbo, and it was worth the wait. It's easily the best film of the year so far, and any discerning cineaste should run, not walk to the nearest theater playing this.

The premise (two homeless people meet and fall in love on the title bridge) sounds like a recipe for disaster, with a high potential for lapsing into noxious sentiment[1], but the astonishing thing about Carax's direction is how he manages to juxtapose both a gritty realism and a mad, visually opulent romanticism most notable in the Bastille Day sequence, an intense 20 minutes of pure sensation and one of the greatest scenes in film history. He never loses sight of both the desperate straits Denis Lavant's alcoholic Alex and Juliette Binoche's Michele (slowly going blind from an eye disease) are in and the fact that both are insane, or close to it. Indeed, the punishing tone of the first half-hour provides a grounding for the passionate imagery that suffuses the film. The film's ending is also a masterstroke, where Carax affirms a belief in the trandscendence of love where Michele and Alex meet again on Pont-Neuf after 3 years and a return to normality and discover that they are still madly in love.

[1]I shudder at the thought of what Garry Marshall would do with it.