As a rule I’m generally pretty down on television — I can’t stand how they ram commercials into the movies.
However, this is the time of year when the Documentary Channel shows some of the best films from the entire last season, and it was on TV that I just watched The Bridge , either one of the more compelling or disgusting films I’ve seen in a while.
The Bridge chronicles an entire year of activity on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, particularly the deaths of seven of the 24 people who committed suicide by jumping off it.
“It happens all the time,” a bridge officer is quoted as saying. In fact, the Golden Gate is the most popular place on earth to do yourself in. Perhaps it’s the heavenly sound of the bridge’s name, or as one woman puts it, “the false romanticism” of that particular feat of engineering. Who knows?
Director Eric Steel doesn’t form any hypothesis on why people choose to take their lives (everything from genetics, to medical depression, to lack of love are discussed) but he does spend time talking to the friends and families of those who jumped (and one guy who lived through it) and juxtaposes those touching and tragic conversations with real footage of people crawling over the rails and leaping to their deaths.
This “snuff film” material is cut with beautiful scenic shots of the bridge and everyday life around it. Steel filmed every day of 2004 with a wide angle of the entire span and a telescopic lens trained on “potential” jumpers. Supposedly, he informed authorities as soon as people climbed over, and he does have some killer rescue footage. But he also has lots of death, sometimes from two angles, and this has caused a stir.
The suicide footage is chilling and a bit sensationalist (the “splash” sounds edited in when bodies hit the water are a bit much) but the interviews with loved ones left behind really strikes a chord. Like it or not, The Bridge is a thought-provoking film and since its release the city of San Fran is apparently looking more seriously at installing some sort of suicide prevention barrier on the bridge.
If you’re looking for lighter fare, fear not: Hollywood squirts out the latest of this summer’s “Three-quels” on Friday when Oceans 13 opens at the good old Village 8.
This will be the last Ocean’s movie, it’s not fresh and everyone knows it, but director Steven Soderberg and the cast are such masters that they manage to dodge the film’s story and cohesion problems and still deliver something fun to watch.
The story is a pure revenge flick. Ruben (Elliot Gould) gets swindled out of his share of a new casino by unworthy newcomer business man Willy Banks (Al Pacino). Ocean (George Clooney) and his band spend the rest of the movie executing an elaborate, near-impossible scheme to ruin Banks and show him what’s what. It’s not the most exciting premise and yes, this movie feels more like a handful of great scenes than a complete film, but amidst the obvious themes of loyalty and friendship Soderberg has masterfully used style to make up for a lack of substance.
I had pretty high hopes for Ocean’s 13 and even though it doesn’t totally deliver, if you appreciate the saturated Las Vegas colours, the costumes, the self-reflexive jokes, the split-screen usage and the fantastic tracking shots you’ll probably make it through without even thinking of jumping off a bridge.
AT VILLAGE 8 June 8-14: Ocean’s 13; Surfs Up; Pirates of the Caribbean; Shrek 3; Knocked up; Mr. Brooks; Spiderman 3.