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FILM REVIEW HHH 1/2

Girl on the Bridge

Spellbinding

By Lianne Habinek

Directed by Patrice Leconte

Written by Serge Frydman

Starring Vanessa Paradis and Daniel Auteuil

French with English subtitles

Girl on the Bridge (La Fille sur le Pont), directed by Patrice Leconte, is a spellbinding trick of a film. I’ll admit to squirming and knuckle-biting, and I’ll also admit to being enchanted, though I draw the line at being bored. Not a moment was wasted -- how many contemporary films can you say that of? -- and you realize exactly what it is to be an audience member. In this sense, Girl is not unlike one of Leconte’s earlier films, Monsieur Hire, which weaves a melancholy tale around a central theme of window-watching. It is similarly easy to feel voyeuristic watching Girl, as Leconte emphasizes vision and the audience-actor relationship to great effect.

Adele (Vanessa Paradis) begins by narrating her various amours to an impersonal panel. Her life is, it seems, a game of dominoes, as a night with one man leaves her being comforted by another the next day, and so on in rapid succession. She goes to stand on a bridge over the Seine one night, intending to jump. “You look like a girl who’s about to make a big mistake,” intones an older man, standing casually next to her. This is Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) -- a knife-thrower who roams the bridges of Paris looking for suicidal women to be assistants for his act. She jumps, he follows suit to rescue her, and they end up in the hospital together. Gabor eventually convinces Adele to assist. An immediate and remarkable chemistry forms between them. Bit by bit, the logic typically associated with life breaks off: Gabor and Adele bet on “0” in roulette and win a hideous amount of money (not just once but several times), they win a car in a raffle in Italy, and Adele is always only grazed at each evening’s knife throwing (it is hinted that Gabor’s previous track record was not so wonderful). Through it all, they maintain a mysterious attraction to one another, despite their age difference and Adele’s continued affairs.

Stylistically, Girl is an impressive jaunt into the black-and-white world. Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine this as a color film, even when Adele and Gabor see a rainbow in Italy. Paradis and Auteuil make a perfect match -- she exudes a graceful, catlike innocence, while he is casual and gruff with a tender undertone. Two metaphors extend through Girl and heighten the spectacle. First, Adele and Gabor compare themselves to a $50 bill torn in half -- fantastic together, but useless apart. Second, and more intriguing, Leconte uses knife-throwing in lieu of sex. Adele and Gabor nearly never come in physical contact, but their enigmatic connection is apparent in each of these fantastically tense and symbolically erotic scenes. Top all this off with an eerie tune by Angelo Badalamenti, and you have one clever little film.