|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.
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.
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
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