Sense of Fatalism Pervades Poetic ‘Girl on the Bridge’


The French take emotions so seriously that even in the most unabashedly romantic of comedies you find yourself looking for a sobering subtext. You will search in vain for it, however, in Patrice Leconte’s heady “Girl on the Bridge.”

Still, it is steeped in that very French quality, characteristic of so many cherished vintage movies: an all-pervasive fatalism. No wonder Leconte had his cinematographer, Jean-Marie Dreujou, shoot in glorious black and white, for his film is inconceivable in color.

The result is a sophisticated diversion that makes no real demands beyond submitting to subtitles.


Even the name of the film’s leading lady, Vanessa Paradis, evokes that of a star of an earlier, more glamorous era--Viviane Romance comes to mind.


Paradis’ Adele, like many a despairing heroine before her, is preparing to jump off a Paris bridge into the Seine when she is spotted by a stranger who will become her savior--or will he? He is Gabor (Daniel Auteuil), a circus performer in need of salvation himself.

Overcome by Adele’s youthful beauty and vulnerability, the middle-aged knife-thrower knows he has found his new partner. Rejuvenated, Gabor bluffs himself into a circus performing in Monte Carlo by promising he will do his act blindfolded. What he and Adele discover is that they are so much on the same wavelength as to be downright telepathic in their ability to communicate without either sight or sound. They also discover that in performing their routine they both experience a terrific rush that can only be regarded as sexual. Adele also gets the same rush as Gabor from gambling when he sends her in his place to the gaming tables; he’s been banned because of his clairvoyant powers.

Athens and Istanbul beckon beyond Monte Carlo, but the tables are beginning to turn. Gabor has fallen in love so completely with Adele that he’s in danger of becoming consumed by his demons. Now it’s her turn to return the favor, but just how strong is that telepathic bond between them anyway? Will Gabor ever be able to declare his love to Adele--and how will she respond?

Leconte has long been fascinated with the human capacity for obsession in such notable and distinctive films as “Monsieur Hire,” “The Hairdresser’s Husband” and “Ridicule.”


He’s more purely romantic here, yet both Auteuil and Paradis are so clearly committed to bringing alive what is essentially a fairy tale that they both were nominated for Cesars, with Auteuil coming up a winner.


Locale is crucial here, and Monte Carlo, Athens and Istanbul are a wonderful trio of cities for glamorous romance, intrigue and danger--and they could not seem more richly atmospheric with Dreujou’s lush camerawork. This counterpoints a score assembled by Leconte entirely from existing music, ranging from selections of Marianne Faithfull, Benny Goodman, Brenda Lee--and the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble.

Leconte has acknowledged the influence of Ophuls and Fellini, but his film recalls even more the poetic spirit of the Marcel Carne films of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

Leconte has remarked of his film that “when you’re alone you’re nothing. But when you’re two, you can do anything. Luck exists only when you’ve found that other half of that torn bill,” referring to a dollar bill that Gabor has symbolically ripped in two, presenting Adele with one half.

Spoken like a true Frenchman.

* MPAA rating: R, for some sexuality. Times guidelines: The film is suitable for mature teens.

‘Girl on the Bridge’

(‘La Fille sur le Pont’)

Daniel Auteuil: Gabor

Vanessa Paradis: Adele

A Paramount Classics and Christian Fechner presentation of co-production of Films Christian Fechner/UGCF/France 2 Cinema. Director Patrice Leconte. Producer Fechner. Executive producer Herve Truffaut. Screenplay by Serge Frydman. Cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou. Editor Joelle Hache. Costumes Annie Perier. Production designer Ivan Maussion. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

At selected theaters.