Film Scouts Reviews

"Lulu on the Bridge"

by David Sterritt

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To be honest, Paul Auster's debut as a solo director (after collaborating on "Smoke" and "Blue in the Face" with Wayne Wang, apparently his cinematic mentor) is less spellbinding than it wants to be, losing its energy and occasionally its brains in long passages of surprisingly sentimental schmaltz wherein Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino entrance each other with words of love corny enough to embarrass a Tin Pan Alley songwriter.

Other episodes are more original and enticing, however, with Keitel and Sorvino pairing off as a disabled jazz musician and an aspiring actress whose infatuation is sparked by a mysterious hunk of rock that glows in the dark and induces what appear to be warm-and-sticky feelings of nearly orgasmic proportions in the people who clutch it in their hands. As in some of his fiction, Auster plays with subjects charged with mysterious, even spiritual overtones that he never claims to comprehend any better than his characters do, weaving a fascinating web whose final shape turns out to be more tantalizing and exotic than revelatory or astonishing.

The best scenes involve Willem Dafoe as a scary anthropologist who interrogates Keitel by confronting him with buried childhood memories. Also on hand are Gina Gershon as Keitel's old girlfriend, Mandy Patinkin as an acquaintance who shares the picture's funniest scene, and Vanessa Redgrave as a movie director. It's hard to say exactly what audience the film will eventually find, since it's a touch too weird for the Saturday-night set but not audacious enough for people with genuinely avant-garde leanings. A respectable art-house release is surely in its future, though, and moviegoers who recall Louise Brooks's original Lulu from G.W. Pabst's masterpiece "Pandora's Box" may want to see it simply for the memories it will conjure up.

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