Les Amants du Pont Neuf | 1990
A bizarre romance between middle-class artist Michèle (Juliette Binoche), who’s losing her sight, and nihilist fire-eating street-punk Alex (Denis Lavant), set on the Pont Neuf in Paris during the 1989 Bicentennial celebrations.
The Paris locations you can see include the street where Alex is hit by a car at the beginning of the movie – boulevard Sebastopol, which runs north/south from Strasbourg St Denis Metro to Chatelet – and the Nanterre Night Refuge to which he’s taken.
The metro station, inside which Alex impresses Michèle with his acrobatics, is Pont Neuf itself; while the one with the illuminated pavement, where Michèle is chased, is Montparnasse Bienvenue.
Beyond Pont Neuf, the iron-latticed bridge to which Michèle retires after drugging café patrons, is the wooden-planked Pont des Arts leading from the Institut de France to the Louvre. Both the Pont Neuf itself and Pont des Arts are featured in The Bourne Identity.
And it really is the Louvre into which Michèle steals at night for a private viewing of the Rembrandt self-portrait. The shot of Michèle taking an uncomfortably close peek at the painting with a cigarette lighter was reputedly snatched while the ever-present Louvre guard had popped out to the toilet.
The Pont Neuf itself was closed for renovations from 1989 to 1991, and its turrets provide shelter for the movie’s down-and-out characters.
If the Paris background looks sparsely populated, though, that’s because, for the most part, the film was made on a giant set which recreates the Seine river fronts in forced perspective. Which also explains why, until Claud Berri’s mammoth adaptation of Germinal came along in 1993, Les Amants du Pont Neuf was the most expensive French movie ever made.
The real bridge was scheduled to be used for filming, with a set taking over for the spectacular night-time scenes, but when Denis Lavant injured a tendon in his wrist the production moved full-time to the set, which had then to be extended to accommodate daytime shooting.
40 bulldozers set to shifting a quarter of a million cubic tons of earth to recreate the River Seine in a field near Montpellier, in Lansargues, southwest of Nimes down toward the south coast. But money ran out, and in December 1988 the production closed down.
After an aborted five week shoot in 1989, a new producer and even rumours of Elia Kazan or Robert De Niro taking over as director, the production finally wrapped in January 1990, with a final cost rumoured at between 100 and 160 million francs.
Pont Neuf–the New Bridge, actually the oldest existing bridge across the Seine, completed in 1607 – crosses the river in a series of twelve arches by the western tip of the Ile de la Cité, dividing it neatly into two sections (Métro: Pont Neuf).