Watched: 24 January

Leos Carax’s third feature – also his most well-known to date – revolves around two vagrants who become lovers while sleeping rough on Paris’s Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’): one, played by the contorting livewire Denis Lavant, is seemingly struggling with mental illness and has been homeless for a while, while Juliette Binoche’s artist is a relative newbie to the streets, having left her well-off family just before the story begins. I suppose I shouldn’t find it remarkable that the pair share an extraordinary chemistry; they had already starred opposite one another in Carax’s earlier film Mauvais Sang, after all, but still, they do seem a particularly well-matched couple (which is surprising as Lavant has such an unusual look and physical presence while Binoche’s appearance and demeanour is a tad more ‘classic’ by way of comparison). There are some standout, superb sequences in the film: the scene in which the pair dance on the bridge before taking part in a bizarre waterskiing session on the Seine, for example, while bicentennial celebratory fireworks pop in the background; and also the sequence in which Lavant’s character Alex sets fire to the missing person posters in the Metro that feature the face of Binoche’s Michèle. The bridge is under renovation for much of the film (the work spanned the end of the 1980s and start of the 1990s), and it serves as a metaphor for broken lives in need of ‘repair’, or is linked perhaps to the physical condition of the two (her eyesight is failing, he is limping after a road accident seen at the start of the film). A sweeping romance, but also one that’s pleasingly strange. (****½)