|Girl on the Bridge
(La Fille sur la pont)
In a stunning and ultimately quite brilliant gambit, director Patrice
Leconte opens the beautifully shot black-and-white romantic comedy-drama
GIRL ON THE BRIDGE with a monologue delivered in a tour de force by
singer-actress Vanessa Paradis. Adèle (Paradis) is reciting a hard-luck
litany of her life; how each terrible moment has led her to another man
who has his way with her and then brings her grief. The six-minute scene
(reportedly filmed in one take) provides enough background on Adèle
to understand why the next time the audience sees her, she is standing
on a footbridge at night gazing down at the Seine.
With her gap-toothed smile, shaggy hair, cheekbones that could cut
glass and more than a dollop of winsome charm, Adèleis depicted as one
of life's losers. Anunhappy young woman who sees no future and is
convinced she is "stamped with the seal of failure." As she tentatively
decides to jump, Gabor (Daniel Auteuil, who won the Best Actor César
for his performance) emerges and tries to persuade her not to jump. Just
as it seems he is beginning to reach her, she dives into the water and
he jumps in after. As they are being treated for hypothermia at a hospital,
Gabor manages to persuade Adèle to trust him and accompany him.
The pair establish a sort of psychic bond and Gabor, who makes his
living as a carnival knife-thrower convinces Adèle to join him in his act.
As in any fairy tale, the heroine has to undergo a transformation
nd in scenes that recall a montage from any number of movies
(PRETTY WOMAN came to my mind), Gabor oversees the turning of
this duckling into a swan. She is given a stylishly boyish haircut (all
the better to make her into a gamine) and a new wardrobe.
Metamorphosis complete, they debut their act in Monaco, where
Gabor adds the obstacle of performing the knife-throwing act blindly,
relying on the growing telepathic bond they have come to share. He
later exploits their connection at a casino, where Adèle acts as his
stand-in as Gabor has been banned for life. Over time, their relationship
appears to deepen, but Adele has this knack for sleeping with everyone
else but Gabor. In one scene that is both gloriously photographed
but borders on camp, Adèle and Gabor retreat to an abandoned
warehouse near a train station and perform their "routine," the
metaphor for their repressed sexual tension clearly obvious.
GIRL ON THE BRIDGE possesses a timeless quality, in part
because of Jean-Marie Dreujou's expert black-and-white cinematography
which crisply captures the gray tones. Leconte hearkens back to the
cinema of the late 1950s and 60s with allusions to Fellini (the circus
acts reference LA STRADA) and others. (There are also echoes of more
recent filmmakers as well, particularly Leconte's countryman Leos Carax.)
Although the film relies on the tried and true formula of older man and
younger woman, in this case it seems more organic than when American
directors attempt it. Auteuil delivers a skillful portrayal of a man whose
confidence and brio masks loneliness and despair. Matching him is
Paradis who has one of the best roles to date as Adèle. There is a nice
chemistry between them although the scripts intermittent use of the
psychic bond between them is problematic.
Had writer Serge Frydman been willing to explore in more detail that
connection, the film might have been richer. The idea that these two are a
matched set is an intriguing one, but instead of delving into the
psychological aspects, the filmmakers have opted for a surface approach.
Still, what is on screen is often compelling and gorgeous, thanks to the
actors, the camera work and Leconte's decision to use extant recordings
(everything from classical music to Benny Goodman to pop works like
Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" to African-infused rhythms) in lieu of a formal
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality
Running time: 90 mins.
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.