Seven Questions for "Lulu On The Bridge" Filmmaker Paul Auster
by Stephen Garrett
“Lulu on the Bridge” is Paul Auster’s directing debut, although 1993’s “The Music
of Chance” was his first script for the screen; and his following experiences
collaborating with director Wayne Wang on 1995’s “Smoke” and “Blue in the Face“
was, he felt, his own film school, during which he learned everything about
the craft that made it possible to undertake his first directing job alone.
In the film, Harvey Keitel is a jazz saxophonist crippled by a random gunshot
that leaves him unable to make music anymore. As he recuperates and finds a
new balance in life, random and magical circumstances lead to his meeting and
falling in love with an aspiring actress played by Mira Sorvino, who falls
equally head over heels. More than anything, Lulu is about true love and the
pitfalls that sometimes come between fated lovers. Mixing fantasy with
reality, and injected with a hefty dose of romance, American critics have
given Lulu a mixed reception here at Cannes, which possibly has served as more
of a reflection on cultural tastes than on the merit of Auster’s aspirations.
indieWIRE: “Lulu” has certain references to other films, like “Pandora’s Box” and
“Singin’ in the Rain”. Why did you decide to make these allusions?
Paul Auster: Oh, you know, these things just develop, they just organically
start coming together. I love “Singin’ in the Rain” — I really do think what
[Willam Dafoe’s character] says in the movie is true — it really is about
laughing your way through adversity. It’s so deeply American. I really
believe it’s a great American contribution to the world.
iW: So then your film shares that same sense of being light-hearted in the
face of despair?
Auster: Definitely. Not to be light-hearted, but to overcome everything, rather
than be crushed by it. Stanley Donen, the director of “Singin’ in the Rain”,
was going to be in the film, but then he got sick and couldn’t do it. He was
going to play that walk-on part that David Byrne did — I don’t know if you
noticed — in the pie-in-the-face scene. David Byrne is Mira’s date at the
iW: How did the cast come together?
Auster: I wanted all the people that are in the film, and I asked them. Many of
them I knew — that was my casting technique.
iW: So you have your dream cast?
Auster: I do. If you notice, when Mira walks into her bedroom and plays her
telephone message, the agent was played by Stockard Channing.
iW: You were here last year as a member of the Cannes jury. What’s it like to
be here now as a director?
Auster: It’s as if I’m in two different places. The palm trees look the same, but
everything else is different.
iW: Are you a little more nervous?
Auster: Yeah, you bet.
iW: The film has sold so far in most major territories, including Canada, but
not America. Why is that?
Auster: There’s an interesting comment from [director] John Boorman. He said he
thinks Hollywood has becomes so pervasive and people have gone to [Hollywood
movies] so often that they actually have no way of looking at other kinds of
films anymore. It’s not that they’re not even willing to try — it’s that
they can’t look at them. It’s like a foreign language. And I think there
might be some truth to this.