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With: Vanessa Paradis, Daniel Auteuil
Written by: Serge Frydman
Directed by: Patrice Leconte
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 03/31/1999

Girl on the Bridge (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Knife-Throwing and Spoon-Feeding

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Girl on the Bridge on DVD.

Girl on the Bridge (a.k.a. La Fille sur le pont) is a trifle. It's a cupcake, sugar-light that could blow away in the slightest puff. It's a mish-mash of bits of old movies, but they've been wrapped up nicely. It helps that the movie is in black-and-white, lending it an old-fashioned sheen, and making it a pleasant afternoon killer.

In Girl on the Bridge, a girl (Vanessa Paradis) gets ready to jump off a bridge but is rescued by a circus knife-thrower named Gabor (Daniel Auteuil, best known for Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring), who brings her into his act as a target. They have a strange relationship; they're obviously attracted to and interested in each other but they refrain from any extracurricular activities. The girl, in fact, has a deep need to sleep with nearly every other man she meets. This leads to a very funny climax in which she jumps a cruise ship with a newly married man (married to someone else) and escapes in a life boat, which subsequently breaks down.

Much of the movie is devoted to the knife-throwing act, which is fascinating. The act is turned into a bit of eroticism, the only kind that the two main characters get to experience with each other. The first time is done through a sheet (a bedsheet?); another time is done privately in a bus station as the girl (named Adele) writhes in pleasure under the knives. Each time Gabor gently bandages minute cuts that Adele has sustained during the act, little reminders of their moments joined in pleasure.

The most interesting scene, and the one that makes Girl on the Bridge stand out, is the opening in which Adele is being questioned about her life. We never see the questioner, but we do get out-of-focus glimpses of some kind of panel of judges or jurors. It could be heaven or hell, or a dream. This scene goes on for a while, and it's the only time we get an idea of who Adele really is. Since this scene comes first, it helps flesh out the rest of the movie.

The director, Patrice Leconte, is best known for his art-house nuggets in this country, Monsieur Hire (1989), The Hairdresser's Husband (1992), and Ridicule (1996). His films lack the weight and richness of the great French films, but perhaps there's room for this sort of thing, just as there's room for lightweight American films like The Tao of Steve. You won't take away any grand emotions or life-changing ideas, but you'll be thoroughly whisked away to someplace whimsical for awhile.

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