The longest standing bridge over the river Seine, the Pont Neuf (or New Bridge) transects the Île de la Cité and joins the 1st and 6th arrondissements. Its inbuilt stone benches are a popular spot for canoodling couples, and the views it offers down the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are breathtaking. The bridge’s romantic and architectural appeal is so great that it has been the silent star of numerous motion pictures over the years, with the seven below representing the best of the cinematic bunch.
Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant are the lovers on the bridge in this beautifully shot picture from director Leos Carax. Michèle, a painter with a degenerative eye condition, and Alex, a fire-breathing street performer with addiction issues, find themselves sleeping rough together on the Pont Neuf. Alex, fearing that Michèle will leave him if she’s cured, keeps his love from her family and the treatment they have found. The film, which was shot using a replica bridge in the town of Lansargues in the south of France, took three years to make due to injury, financial setbacks, and damage to the set by winter storms. It is a tribute to the brutality and brilliance of life and love.
Four Nights of a Dreamer is another story of love on the Pont Neuf. Directed by Robert Bresson, it is inspired by the story White Nights by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Jacques encounters Marthe while she is preparing to commit suicide by jumping off the famous bridge into the Seine, so distraught is she that her former lover has returned to Paris without telling her. Jacques manages to calm her down and encourages her to write to the ex. Unfortunately for him, he quickly turns from savior to messenger, ferrying letters across the city on Marthe’s behalf, all the while becoming more infatuated with her over the course of the four nights.
An earlier work from Benoît Jacquot, the director of Farewell, My Queen, this stark film tells of the depressing reality of 17-year-old Beth. With a bedridden mother and infant brother, she is the head of the household, responsible for bringing in the rent and putting food on the table in any way possible. Her boyfriend pushes her to sleep with other men to affirm their love, her mother expects her to please her own ‘sugardad’ in order to keep his checks coming, and he’s not the only middle-aged man with misplaced affections for her. She has a lot on her mind as she stares into the river’s waters as they rush under the bridge and past the Square du Vert-Galant.
For those readers who eschew watching blockbusters, the premise of the first of the Bourne franchise is that Matt Damon is a CIA operative who wakes up with severe memory loss. He has all the lethal skills of a spy but no idea of how he acquired them or what he was using them for. The film is famous for its high-octane car chase through the gray, wintry streets of Paris. In one particularly tense scene, Bourne surveys his former boss Alexander Conklin, played by Chris Cooper, on the Pont Neuf from his vantage point on top of the old Samaritaine department store.
The second chapter of Richard Linklater’s real-time romance epic sees Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Céline meet up in Paris, nine years after their nighttime stroll through Vienna. The pair spend an afternoon together, walking in bookshops and parks, sitting in a café and generally trying to figure out how it is that they never ended up together. A boat ride on the Seine sees the couple pass under most of the city’s bridges, including the Pont Neuf, though they were probably too engrossed in a discussion of the nature of love and memory to notice.
Woody Allen’s tale of nostalgia is filled with rose-tinted (well, actually, in this case gold-tinted) images of Paris. Owen Wilson’s Gil Pender, a jaded Hollywood hack engaged to Rachel McAdams’ California harpy, takes to the city’s streets for an evening stroll only to find himself transported back to the 1920s and the world of Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, and Gertrude Stein. In one memorable scene, Gil and his equally backward-looking love interest Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard, prevent an inebriated Zelda Fitzgerald, as brought to life by Alison Pill, from throwing herself into the water under the Pont Neuf.
Israel Horovitz’s feature-length directorial debut is a mid-life romantic comedy, centered on an obscure aspect of French real estate law. Kevin Kline plays Mathias, a broke New Yorker who travels to Paris in order to sell an extravagant apartment he has been left by his wealthy, estranged father. On arriving, he discovers that it is currently occupied by 90-year-old Mathilde (Maggie Smith) and her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas). As the apartment is a viager, not only is he unable to sell it but he also owes its occupants a life annuity of €2,400 per month. This news, as you can imagine, leads to some Seine-side reflection (and drinking), with the Pont Neuf as a backdrop.