Warsaw Bridge’s Mysteries Remain


The frizzy perms permanently time-stamp Warsaw Bridge as a product of 1990; otherwise, the years have done little to clear up its mysteries. Pere Portabella’s first color film begins with a prologue that’s comprehensible: the flurry of preparations leading up to a party that will confer a prize upon a writer for his titular novel. Twenty-five minutes in, the opening credits arrive, seeming to promise that the rest of the film will be an adaptation of said novel. No such luck. Somewhere, deep in here, there’s a love triangle—to uncover it, prepare to deal with nude women singing in Turkish baths, lectures on algae, and Lord knows what else. Portabella’s filmmaking aggressively resists narrative; indeed, the bit that’s easiest to understand has to do with hostility toward philistine audiences. (“What you call ‘the public’ can go fuck itself!” one character hisses.) I’m as willing to go frontline in the battle against self-righteous philistinism as the next elitist critic, but Portabella’s film doesn’t give me much ammunition. In theory, disconnected moments of beauty in an assemble-it-yourself plot should be eminently defensible. But these moments aren’t that beautiful or intriguing; nor is the hostility toward an audience that probably hasn’t even shown up.