La fille sur le pont (Girl on the Bridge)

Directed by Patrice Leconte
Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Daniel Auteuil.
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
August 29, 2000

After seeing three unimpressive studio films, and then a long and pretentious French film, I was beginning to give up on seeing anything good last weekend. Then, like a ray of sunshine from heaven, all was made well by another French film. However, this one was simple, beautiful, funny, and one of the best films I have seen all year.

Pop singer Vanessa Paradis plays Adele, a girl who is not yet 22, but has been with countless men, never able to make it on her own. She is severely depressed, and tries throwing herself off a bridge near the Eiffel Tower (quite possibly the most romantic place to commit suicide). A man passing by tries to stop her, but she jumps, and he dives in and rescues her.

The man is Gabor (Daniel Auteil), a middle-aged knife-thrower. He convinces Adele that she is in fact quite lucky, and would make an excellent target. She learns to trust a man for the first time without sleeping with him, and they embark on a tour of Europe to perform their show to amazed audiences.

What is Gabor's secret? How can he have this uncanny ability to not only throw knives, but to influence the fortune of Adele? His explanation to one person is that he's a fairy. No, he's not gay; there are many women in his past, even for a Frenchman. Girl on the Bridge is essentially a modern comic fairy tale that hints at magic and psychic powers. Gabor truly is mortal, and his connection with Adele is unique.

Even though Adele continues to sleep around, the most erotic scenes are with Gabor -- the one man she never sleeps with. She allows him to strap her to a board -- or a door, if that's what happens to be available -- and throw the knives with incredible force. The sexual imagery is obvious, and Adele's expressions are completely orgasmic as each knife lands an inch from her skin. Director Patrice Leconte (Ridicule) captures these moments beautifully, with brilliant black & white photography. We see Gabor staring intently at his target, and then he seems to hurl the audience with the knife to a shot of Adele, who is barely containing herself.

Of course, there is more to this film than the knife-throwing that makes it great. Those scenes only culminate the rest of the emotions and themes that go into the rest of the film. It is an entirely enjoyable and satisfying experience, unlike any other film out today. Maybe Girl on the Bridge comes to us from another time, when love could be expressed on screen without irony or explicit sexuality. It does what a film is supposed to do: show its theme, not just tell the audience what it is. In fact, the subtitles are almost unnecessary. It's a good thing, because they are quite difficult to read against the black & white. So, the film's only significant flaw can be forgiven. That makes me a very happy critic, indeed.

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan