Trimark // 1998 // 103 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // November 21st, 1999
Is she real? Or did he make her up?
An unconventional story about a man, his life, and what might be (or not), Lulu on the Bridge is the sort of movie to slip into your player when your mind is looking for a quiet romantic puzzle to solve.
Izzy Maurer (Harvey Keitel) is a cool jazz musician whose musical efforts are rudely interrupted by a loud man and his gun (Kevin Corrigan), particularly when he starts pulling the trigger and shoots Izzy. The aftermath is a little fuzzy on the details, but soon we are back with Izzy in his hospital bed, as he contemplates the fate of a jazz musician with one lung and a broken hand. His recovery is slow but consistent until one strange night when he stumbles onto a dead man (John DeLancie, who has seen better days as Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation), whose only possessions are a slip of paper with the phone number of Celia Burns (Mira Sorvino) and a very mysteriously powered stone. Soon Izzy and Celia meet, and their brusque beginnings grow into affection and then to passionate love. Their relationship is soon given a boost when Izzy finds he is able to introduce budding actress Celia to movie director Catherine Moore (Vanessa Redgrave) and producer Philip Kleinman (Mandy Patinkin), thanks to the good offices of Izzy's ex, Hannah (Gina Gershon, last seen in Bound).
Things really get strange when Celia is cast as the lead (Lulu) in the Moore/Kleinman production "Pandora's Box." She flies off to Dublin, Ireland, for filming, with Izzy promising to follow in a few days. The movie follows its process, but Izzy is kidnapped by shadowy men looking for the stone and held in a warehouse sort of prison. He is soon visited by an inquisitor, Dr. Van Horn (Willem Dafoe) who demands to know if Izzy is worthy, and proceeds to quiz him in intimate and knowing detail over the span of Izzy's life. He escapes, but not before tragic events overtake Celia and himself, spiraling toward an ending that I dare not spoil here.
The story is a curious sort, where you think you know where the movie is going, but you can't exactly be sure. It seems to have a both a sense of purpose and an aimless, drifting quality, apparently an intentionally paradoxical touch by the writer/director. This will not be a film that appeals to a wide range of audiences, given the occasional pretentious touches to the story and its insistence on leaving gaps of territory unexplained.
I can only describe the acting as a barely tapped goldmine. This is the primary reason that I took the chance to review Lulu on the Bridge, as the roster of names in this film is simply amazing. It is a shame that this assortment of actors and actresses has such a towering array of talent that is largely unused. Mandy Patinkin has such musical talent and scene-chewing ability that is seemed somewhat strange to see him as the quiet, low-key movie producer. Much the same can be said of Vanessa Redgrave, who is so believably natural as the maturing, wistful director. Willem Dafoe is at it again, making us unsure as to what Dr. Van Horn is, whether a pleasant foe or a disconcerting friend. An excellent role for him!
The focus is on Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino, who are the true keystones of this Bridge. (ha ha) As always, Harvey Keitel gives us a paradoxical performance, showing us the layers and internal contradictions of Izzy as he progresses from the darkness of his life into the love and life of Celia's world, and Mira does well to hold her own across from him.
The video is an average quality transfer. The picture is quite clean and free of dirt or blemishes, but there is a fair amount of video noise. Sharpness is middling at best, and a number of scenes (especially those that use blue lighting) are terribly blurry at times. Blacks seem okay, the shadow contrast is a little deficient, and color saturation is adequate but not particularly strong.
Audio is unremarkable Dolby Digital 2.0 for this very talky movie, with a very centered front soundstage and very little for your subwoofer to do. The occasional musical interludes are pleasant.
Extra content is a small package of deleted scenes (about 21 minutes' worth) and a commentary track with writer/director Paul Auster, producer Peter Newman, editor Tim Squyres, and director of photography Alik Sakharov which is a reasonable mix of technical and story detail with occasional periods of silence. The trailer promised on the box is absent from the disc. Unfortunately, it comes packaged in an Alpha keep case.
It was a very interesting experience watching this movie unfold, wondering what was going on and where it was all headed, but I really felt let down by the ending (which I still won't spoil for you!). It seemed too obvious to be where all this was headed, so when the film arrived there, I felt cheated. It was a much more intriguing film than the ending would indicate, and some minor tweaking at the end could have preserved a much more enjoyable mystery over the nature and meaning of the film. It just leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth.
An interesting movie, it should appeal to those looking for a bit of a mystery with a dash of romance, as long as you don't expect to have all your questions answered. It is certainly worth a rental, and once you have seen it, then you can consider whether it is worth ($25) a purchase.
The film is guilty of a misdemeanor predictable ending and Trimark is ordered to do community service work by devoting more effort to giving its pictures top-flight video and audio transfers.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer
* Production Commentary