The Bridge – Dir. Eric Steel


It has been a few weeks since I saw “The Bridge,” and not a day has passed without my thinking of it at least in passing. I live in San Francisco so the fact that I have driven over it a few times, and seen its glorious red gates from my home across the city, help keep the images fresh. I suspect that even if that wasn’t the case this incredibly moving and beautifully shot documentary would still be tugging at me.

Shot over the course of 2004, and inspired by a New Yorker article, “The Bridge” captures actual footage of jumpers hurling themselves over the shoulder high guardrail into the beautiful San Francisco Bay a quarter of mile below. This gripping footage is juxtaposed with breathtaking shots of the bridge captured throughout the year, bathed in fog and soaked in sun, its rusty red gates jutting into a deep blue sky, and sunk into the serene hillsides of Marin and SF’s Presidio. This physical beauty is critical and I think necessary as kind of an emotional breath as Steel diagnoses the bridge’s draw as the suicide capital of the country through a series of incredible moving and revealing conversations with friends and family members of many of the people who died during the year of the film’s shooting. Each of the interviews tends to thoughtfully anticipate most of the questions that I was trying to get my head around while watching.

I left the film not so much depressed, as fascinated and, in some ways, relieved for some of the victims. It is a rare documentary that combines both such sophisticated cinematic beauty with poignant human drama. This film pays sad but worthy tribute to the magnificent bridge that has inspired so much passion over the years.

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The National – Boxer (Beggars Banquet)


A few years ago an indie band from Brooklyn, via my home state of Ohio, released a record so infectious and undeniably potent, that I quickly unearthed the earlier records that to see what I might have missed before. The National’s “Alligator” set me off longing for the follow up to that brooding but oddly poppy masterpiece. “Boxer” is a lovely album, a tad bit darker in tone and subject, but no less compelling. The band almost feels like it might be marching towards something, driven by precise almost military sounding drum beat (think part Franz Ferdinand part American Music Club), augmented by strings, keys, and guitars and most distinctively the deep baritone of singer Berlinger. Vocally it is easy to hear bits of Leonard Cohen, Brian Ferry, Serge Gainsbourg, and the Tindersticks Stuart Staples, while also hearing something so much more modern. On the whole “The Boxer” is redeemed by a handful of songs like “Apartment Story” that groove and swagger with a brazen smirk and and driving beats. This record is a keeper, andso is he band.

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Once – Dir. John Charney (Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova)


By definition, a film that can loosely be described as a “romantic musical” should send shivers down my spine, conjuring images of outdated dance steps, and clich├ęd interpersonal emotional discovery. But “Once” is that rare jewel of a film, one that not only dares to reinvent a genre but does so using novice actors and music that, out of this context, probably wouldn’t seem so broadly appealing. “Once” is an instant classic, transforming the simple story of a scruffy street singer and beautiful Czech immigrant into a kind of kindred musical and spiritual collaboration whose narrative is told largely through lyrics and whose tone is set by Hansard’s guitar and Irglova’s piano. Watching this film made me somewhat envious of kind of language and relationship that music can foster between people, especially between a man and woman who learn to love through an unspoken musical chemistry, a kind of romantic groove.

As a decade old die-hard fan of Ireland’s greatest modern band, The Frames, is sent warm wonderful chills up my spine to see Frames leader and “Once” star Hansard finally have a chance to propel himself and his band into a limelight so long in coming. If there is any justice in this world, Hansard and Irglova, will be nominated for an Academy award and will win, vaulting The Frames into a much deserved wider audience, much like Elliott Smith did with “Good Will Hunting,” and “Once” will become 2007’s little indie that could, accumulating awards and more visible place in the history of independent film.

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