Warsaw Bridge (1990) Poster


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Crazy beautiful
Time to get excited about film again! Warsaw Bridge (the movie has nothing whatever to do with Warsaw or bridges) is a mainly Barcelona-set set of meditations on the purpose of art, the status of artists, the nature of intellectualism, maybe even on how one should live life. It is skin-tinglingly, outrageously beautiful. There are ambitious and elaborate shots, serious attention is paid to colour and palette, and the camera is put to work, no laziness in this film whatsoever.

Comparisons between directors can be fraught, however the structure of this movie is pretty Godardian. I think if you didn't get on with "Pierrot Le Fou" in a narrative sense, or as regards the decadent aesthetic, or his later more attenuated political films such as "Éloge de l'amour" then Warsaw Bridge will be a bridge too far. Barcelona's buildings play a large part in the movie though the usual Gaudí is not the backbone of the exposition. Instead the camera luxuriates in spectacles such as Antoni Rigalt's great nipple-shaped skylight from Palau de la Música Catalana. The second act of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (where the pair first declare their love for one another) is played out in a fish market, showing similarities here and elsewhere to the performance elements of Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle. Such spectacles are perhaps a call to contemporary artists to aim for the heights of the past.

I heard recently that if someone never plans to retire from work, then they haven't really got a job, whilst some of us are calendar watching for retirement age, an artist will continue past the failure of their eyesight, the failure of their bodies, past age and material need (Monet, Delius etc). In contrast to this image of the artist as coddled enthusiast, WB Yeats once wrote that it was a harder thing to be a poet than to be an old pauper breaking rocks ("Adam's Curse"). Warsaw Bridge is more in the first camp, containing a Buñuelian party scene where the skill of the catering staff is counterpoised with the pretentiousness of the gathered artistic elite, and as a final stroke, the caterers are revealed as more intelligent and better educated. The status accorded the great artist or intellectual, how much more is there to it, than that they have escaped toil? A comparison made by a woman at the almost exclusively male affair is that authors have in common with politicians that they think a lot of themselves.

On decadence and the art of living, and just to show that he can, Portabella inserts a gorgeous sex scene between old lovers, respectful and loving, yet without any naïveté. A beautiful abstract of layered patterns that swirls is shortly revealed as ties on a rack, selected by a writer's hand. Warsaw Bridge is a set of pensées, a jeweller's store of delights. A long pan over salt pans, reservoirs, and lakes comes before a discussion on the poetic implications of different bodies of water, and why not?

Portabella maybe interested in the concept of prizes for art, the eponymous novel wins a prize, and yet the jury are composed of entirely opposed viewpoints, seemingly there to rubber stamp the works of an established author. Back in 1969 Portabella examined this topic in a short film about paintings that had won the national painting prize ("Los premios nacionales").

What is it to be an author/intellectual? Is it about being right, being free, about provoking awe, provoking social change, catering to the public? Portabella leaves the answers to you.
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Brilliant but Confusing... But maybe that's the point
618766 June 2005
I saw this film last night and I am still wondering about it. But that's a good thing. The film sort of follows one man around who I believe is a journalist. Emphasis on the "sort of." He constitutes a very thin thread of a plot and sort of provides a very loose unifying theme for the film.

The film begins with a conversation between a writer and his wife and the next 20 minutes could be a very fragmented conventional film. A lot of characters are introduced, a lot of talking is done, a lot of possible exposition occurs, there is some beautiful photography of Barcelona and an incredible scene of an orchestra playing in the streets. And finally, about 30 minutes into the film, when everything introduced so far comes together in one place and we think we are finally about to understand something the credit sequences roll.

After the credits are done we are treated to a surreal montage of scenes which are both confusing, beautiful and moving. I'm not sure yet if these scenes have some deeper meaning or if they are just there for the visual and emotional impact. Again the journalist provides a very loose thread appearing in conversations in between the meat of the movie which are these absurd yet deeply affecting scenes of seemingly random and absurd things.

The film almost seems like a meta-comment on itself. The scenes with dialog are mostly about the choice of a writer between writing for profit and writing for art and what responsibility he bears and what role he plays in society. Many of the interspersed, seemingly unrelated scenes feature music and people watching music being performed. While I have no interpretation of this film yet I can't help but think it is some sort of comment on art.

Regardless this film is incredible visually and emotionally. Definitely not for the fan of Hollywood films, or even independent films, or actually any film with any type of structured narrative. But if you let the film take you and suspend and expectation the reward is very worthwhile.
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A Dreamy & Surreal Meditation On Life & Art
druid333-19 April 2009
Pere Portabella's films have never been easy to (logically)pinpoint, nor to find,as he has been adamant about his films not being released in any video format,what so ever (no VHS,no DVD,no Blue Ray,no nothing),so finding one of his films is not the easiest. If you can find a cinema that is featuring a revival of one of his films...by all means,go see it. 'Pont de Varso'via' (or,Warsaw Bridge,as it is better known as)is one that will either entice one,or totally enrage them. 'Bridge' is Portabella's diatribe on life & art,told in a series of beautifully photographed images that will remind some of the more surreal films of Luis Bunuel (who he worked with in later years),such as 'Exterminating Angels' (not the French piece of pseudo/quasi porn s**t from a few years back),or 'L'Age Dor'. It also reminded me of Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle from some years back. Don't try to find a plot (in the traditional sense,anyway),as 'Bridge' is a series of disconnected images that convey a lyrical feel. The use of music is well done,as well (lots of neo classical music). If you're looking for something that's way left of centre,you can't do much better than 'Warsaw Bridge'. Not rated by the MPAA (the American distributors didn't bother to submit it for a rating),this film contains both female & male full frontal nudity,as well as some rude language. Probably not a good choice for the little ones (who would only be bored,as well as confused by the various goings on,anyway)
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Not necessarily enjoyable.
oliverseeley-127 November 2006
There are some very nice things about this film. There are moments where images and sound complement one another; the images are soft, evocative and pleasant.

Then, there's the rest of the film. I personally find it considerably disconcerting when image and audio are not synced, like a dodgy download from the Internet. The dialogue is pretentious and unimaginative, the acting a little better.

To mention Barcelona as a location for this film, to evoke its atmosphere and vibe as testament to the character of this film is misleading. Except for the excruciating opening sequence involving an orchestra playing from balconies there are a few scarce shots of a recognizable Barcelona.

Verdict: Like a 15-year-old who has just discovered the thesaurus function in word, this film tries too hard to be something clever, and it just isn't.
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