Lulu On The Bridge

One has to be careful when reviewing writer-director Paul Auster’s “Lulu on the Bridge.” The writer of “Smoke” and writer-director of “Blue in the Face” has proven himself a master of intelligent and thoughtful dialogue.


luluonthebridgeAuster has taken great pains to create a moody, atmospheric film where nothing is what it seems, and to give away just one of the film’s secrets would be criminal. What starts off as a romantic drama turns into an intense mystery, and the transitions are part of the film’s intriguing make- up. Harvey Keitel is exceptional as Izzy Maurer, a noted jazz saxophonist whose seemingly simple life is complicated when he is hit by a stray bullet. Izzy’s survives the attack, but loses a lung and his inspiration in the process. Home from the hospital, Izzy tries to get a grip on his reality, but seems lost in a sea of self pity.

All of that changes when Izzy accepts a dinner invitation from his ex-wife Hannah (Gina Gershon). He finds himself in the company of a famous director (Vanessa Redgrave, very strong) and a producer (Mandy Patinkin), who are currently working on a big screen version of “Pandora’s Box.” Upon returning home, Izzy stumbles across a body in an alley. Next to the body is a briefcase, which Izzy takes with him.

Home, Izzy opens the case and discovers his own “Pandora’s Box.” Inside he discovers a rock that seems to have mystical powers. When the lights go out, it glows a vivid blue and then levitates. Those who touch it become enlightened in ways they never imagined. Also inside the case is a phone number, which Izzy calls. It turns out to be aspiring actress Celia Burns (a potent Mira Sorvino), who has no idea why her name was in the briefcase. When Izzy and Celia finally meet, they are bonded by the powers of the stone.

Izzy also helps Celia land the lead in “Pandora’s Box,” which necessitates that she go to Dublin for several months. Desperately in love with Celia, Izzy agrees to meet her there in a couple of days. Moments before he’s ready to leave, Izzy is kidnaped by three men and finds himself imprisoned inside a dark, dank basement cell. Enter Dr. Van Horn (Willem Dafoe), who wants possession of the stone and its powers. Van Horn subjects Izzy to a line of questioning that leads Izzy to believe that the good doctor is not who he claims to be. In Dublin, Celia’s performance begins to suffer as she worries about Izzy’s absence.

As Van Horn’s henchmen close in on Celia, she is forced to make a desperate decision. Auster fills the film with numerous red herrings and intriguing side trips that add to the overall mysterious tone of the film. At first you believe you’re watching a conventional romantic drama about the human condition, but then Auster throws a monkey wrench into the gears and really upsets the apple cart. Luckily, he has been blessed with a cast that makes these transitions believable. Keitel is exceptional as a man who has seen death and doesn’t want to live anymore.

That is until he meets Celia, and Sorvino makes it easy for us to believe in her as a life preserver. There is a lot of depth in her performance. Dafoe manages to create menace without raising the roof, while Redgrave looks comfortable in the director’s chair. The film looks sensational, a moody combination of dark shadows and extreme colors. The musical score is truly effective, creating both time and place. “Lulu on the Bridge” will more than likely appeal to the art house crowd, but the film manages to break free from those constraints with a story that is more mainstream. The film demands that you pay attention, with a payoff that warrants the effort.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Generally sharp full-frame digital transfer, with good definition and attention to detail. Colors are amazingly realistic, as are the flesh tones. Blacks hold us well under most circumstances, while depth of field is strong. There are some flecks on the transfer and what looks like dirt on the original negative, which is otherwise clean, lending itself to pure whites and shadows. I would have liked to have seen a widescreen version of the film.

HEARING: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Nicely rendered 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack fills the room with moody jazz music and strong ambient noise. Unfortunately, the dialogue mix is rather soft, forcing you to crank up the volume. Ironically, the soundtrack sounds more rambunctious underneath the running audio commentary track. Basses are sparse, while middle and high ends are clean. Not much in the stereo effects department. The track sounds clean, but it’s not alive or definitive.

ORAL: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing, subtitles in French and Spanish.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

The DVD features a running commentary with writer-director Paul Auster, producer Peter Newman, director of photography Alik Sakharov and editor Tim Squyres. It takes a little while before you’re comfortable listening to the foursome, who with the exception of Sakharov, tend to sound alike at times. Their dialogue is the usual patter about low budget filmmaking, plus how Auster used the good will he generated with “Blue in the Face” and “Smoke” to snare a top flight cast. The DVD also features four excised scenes from the film (the running commentary alludes to others that are not included), plus main and scene access menus. The artwork on the back cover says that the DVD also features a trailer, but I couldn’t locate one.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Genuinely involving suspense drama features intriguing performances and sharp dialogue.

VITALS: $24.98/Rated PG-13/103 Minutes/Color/24 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#VM7188D

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: LULU ON THE BRIDGE

BIRTH DATE: 1998

HMO: Trimark Home Video



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