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.
A female professor, a writer, and an orchestra conductor -three characters, two couples- attend a grand literary cocktail party. The writer has just won the prize for his book "Warsaw ...
December 27, 2020