Set against Paris’ oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf, while it was closed for repairs, this film is a love story between two young vagrants: Alex, a would be circus performer addicted to alcohol and sedatives and Michele, a painter driven to a life on the streets because of a failed relationship and an affliction which is slowly turning her blind. The film portrays the harsh existence of the homeless as Alex, Michele and Hans, an older vagrant survive on the streets with their wits. As they both slowly get their lives back together, Michele becomes increasingly dependent on Alex as her vision deteriorates further. Fearing that Michele will leave him if she receives a new medical treatment Alex attempts to keep Michele practically a prisoner. The streets, skies and waterways of Paris are used as a backdrop to the story in a series of stunning visuals which dominate the film.
User Reviews: Obsession, addiction, violence and love. Sometimes all four at the same time. If nothing else, this movie is a complete roller-coaster ride through the emotions. It’s hard to say whether it’s really a love story. Is it love when you want to possess someone to the point where you would rather they go blind than go away? Is it love to want to drag someone down with you to bottom of your own degradation? Is it love when you would take someone’s life because they wanted to go home? But then again, is it love when you allow all this to happen and still come back for more? I have my doubts.
This is really a story of obsession and possession between two people who find themselves marooned out on the edge of human existence. They find something like tenderness, something like love by holding on to each other like two children lost in the dark woods. But obsession is ultimately destructive and so it is here. Alex wants Michelle but never really shows any real tenderness. He has nothing to offer except cheap wine and an old overcoat. He is destructive, violent and child-like. The relationship between Alex and Michelle is quite impossible to comprehend sometimes. What this movie does have is passion. But this is real life passion. Real and raw. If you ever see real people like Alex and Michelle, and they do exist, you can see how they cling to each other, how they abuse each other, how they are possessed by their lifestyle, unable or unwilling to fight their way out of their humiliation. So in the end they just drag each further down, drowning in hopelessness.
But just as you think the story is going to end in tragedy…well you have to watch it for yourself.
The cinematography in this movie is breathtaking at times, but in a very unconventional way. It is beautiful to watch even though there is precious little that is attractive. Paris looks by turns both shiny and exciting and then dark, grey and filthy. Which, if you’ve been there, you will know is exactly how it is. There is not a single shot of any famous Parisian landmark either. Only the river Seine and the bridges around Pont Neuf are part of the landscape in this story.
It’s really an ensemble piece for two characters; two characters caught up in obsession, possession and some kind of love story. The two lead actors, Juliette Binoche and Dennis Levant produce performances of real emotional power and subtlety. There is nothing coming out of Hollywood to match movies like this, nor are there many actors, if any, who could get close to performances like these. One day the Academy will begin to recognise that acting and movies is not just about box office returns and bestow their awards on movies like this.