Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Lulu on the Bridge (Paul Auster, 1997)

For all its preoccupation with art and creativity, Paul Auster’s Lulu on the Bridge doesn’t constitute a great example of either: it feels more arbitrary than instinctive, more clunkily calculated than deeply felt, and barely relevant to anything beyond its own peculiar boundaries. Auster (whose solo directorial debut this was) doesn’t seem like a director of any particular finesse, whether in matters of framing and blocking or in coaxing his actors into interesting territory (not that the likes of Keitel, Dafoe and Redgrave can’t mostly take care of themselves). Even so, I find the movie tends to resurface in my mind from time to time – if nothing else, for its pleasure with the idea of filmmaking both in itself (drawing prominently on Pandora’s Box and Singin’ in the Rain and engaging in brief pastiches of various genres, in one of which Lou Reed pops up to play - as the credits put it - Not Lou Reed), and as a means of unlocking something formative and fundamental. The sense of discovery encompasses language (the repeated use of binary questions – is one an ocean or a river; an owl or a hummingbird, etc.); dredging up of childhood memories and traumas; unexplained magic (a stone which emits a mysterious blue light and levitates, conveying a deep feeling of possibility and connection to those who come into its orbit); and even the formative relationship between man and turd (evoked in one of the weirder blocks of dialogue ever given to Mandy Patinkin). The evocation of the Berlin Wall and a few scenes set in Ireland provide the faintest of political seasonings. It’s disappointing at the end when all of this is revealed as an apparent deathbed fantasy and/or transmigration of souls, pushing the movie’s resonances inward when they needed (in the way of Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie go Boating, a vastly superior film that nevertheless may provide a sporadic reference point here) to push outward. Still, if only all cinematic failures were as intriguing…  

No comments:

Post a Comment