The Girl on the Bridge
La Fille sur le pont
review by Dan Lybarger, 25 August 2000

French director Patrice Leconte (The Hairdresser’s Husband, Ridicule) is one of the cinema’s most accomplished magicians. While showing only centimeters of skin, his movies have a powerful eroticism. Leconte can do more with a few well-placed closeups than most directors can with hours of feverish coupling. His movies are teaming with wit, style and endearingly odd characters. He can effortlessly juggle a film’s moods, alternating between tension and whimsy without missing a beat. In short, Leconte knows how to grab an audience’s attention and to hold it indefinitely.

In The Girl of the Bridge, his latest movie to come stateside, Leconte and screenwriter Serge Frydman features a couple that could only exist on the big screen. Vanessa Paradis stars as Adèle, a young woman whose relationship with men have so far amounted to little more than disappointing one-night stands. She describes her existence as being little more than a trip to a waiting room. The scene where she describes letdowns comes in a long one-take sequence that looks like a therapy session or an interrogation. It’s the sort of sequence that seems pretentious and dull in other flicks. In The Girl on the Bridge, however, Paradis makes Adèle seemed grounded and sympathetic instead of flighty and disgruntled.  She may not be the brightest person on the planet, but her complaints are understandable.

Frustrated by her luck, Adèle stands on a bridge above the Seine, ready to leap into the river. Before she can make the jump, a strange man interrupts her. His admonitions not to jump seem unconvincing, but he begs her because he needs an assistant. His name is Gabor (Daniel Auteuil, The Eighth Day), and he claims to haunt the bridges of Paris looking for women who are either brave or suicidal enough to be a target for his knife-throwing act. Unwilling to listen, Adèle leaps into the water, and Gabor swims after her.

They both escape from a suicide ward and discover that together a strange magic exists between them. Gabor’s hands become steadier and throw blades that continually miss Adèle, even if she’s hidden behind drape or strapped to a wheel. Furthermore, they develop a strange synergy with gambling. They can pick winning roulette and even raffle numbers with eerie consistency. Their charmed partnership does have its drawbacks, though. Adèle grows to love the morose but caring Gabor, she makes him jealous by continuing to unsuccessfully try her luck with other lovers. Nonetheless, the two have a telepathic bond that allows them to communicate over great distances and even through serious misfortunes.

With his ability to use actors’ faces the way other filmmakers use cutting rooms and cameras, Leconte’s use of subtlety in acting is frequently more powerful than most filmmakers’ heavy-handedness. Auteuil, who won BAFTA and Cesar awards for his turn here, pulls on our emotions. His hangdog look is appropriately sympathetic, but it’s fascinating to watch a confident grin start to creep over his face as the film progresses. When he and Paradis steal away to have a private session of knife-throwing, the two gaze at each other with such longing that the sequence becomes a visceral treat and not a silly sexual metaphor.

Simultaneously, Leconte dazzles the eyes and senses.   Jean-Marie Dreujou’s deft black-and-white cinematography makes the exotic locations look otherworldly. The casinos have a gloss that would look garish in color, and it makes the fantastic nature of the story seem more credible. The director packs considerable tension, wit, and romance into the nearly ninety-minute running time for The Girl on the Bridge. The movie shifts from Paris to Monaco to Istanbul at lightning speed and never gets a chance to wear out its welcome.  It’s almost as if a 'thirties screwball comedy had made its way across the Atlantic.

Directed by:
Patrice Leconte

Vanessa Paradis
Daniel Auteuil
Frédéric Pfluger
Demetre Georgalas
Catherine Lascault
Isabelle Petit-Jacques
Mireille Mossé
Didier Lemoine
Bertie Cortez
Stéphane Metzger

Written by:
Serge Frydman




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