IF THE MPAA GAVE ratings on the basis of metaphor alone, Girl on the Bridge would receive an NC-17. It's not shots of weenies in buns, but circus-style knife throwing that fans the flames of passion in this overheated cinematic po譥 de amour by Patrice Leconte (Ridicule, The Hairdresser's Husband). While American romances want to nest in Pottery Barn catalogs, the French Girl is all rumpled clothes and wanderlust, love seen as a flirty but fated gamble accompanied by beautiful images that signify Everything. It's a heady attitude that most of us haven't held since our teens.
GIRL ON THE BRIDGE
directed by Patrice Leconte with Daniel Auteuil and Vanessa Paradis opens August 18 at Guild 45th
The fetching Adele (pop singer Vanessa Paradis) is a failure at love. Her gap-toothed mouth opens to reveal that her relationships with men are nothing short of disastrous, while her smoky eyes relay both her insecurity and desire. She's about to jump off a bridge when she encounters Gabor (Daniel Auteuil), a luckless knife thrower whose fortune changes the moment he meets the go-for-broke Adele. After convincing her to become his assistant, Gabor performs their first gig blind, each "thwok" of the knife sending Adele into fearful ecstasy. (The sublimated erotic symbolism you can work out for yourselves.) They keep things platonic, but share something very special indeed: a May-December relationship with a clairvoyant/telepathic rapport—to say nothing of their winning streak at the roulette table. Their sexual tension grows with each highly charged performance until Adele literally jumps ship, leaving Gabor alone and adrift.
Filmed in lush black-and-white CinemaScope, Girl is a star-dusted travelogue—passing through French carnivals, Turkish street markets, high-stakes casinos, and the summer seas of the Mediterranean—that's unabashedly romantic, abstractly sexy, and only faintly significant. In the end, the sweet, scattered, sumptuous Girl never even tries to make sense of its rhapsodic approach. It lands with all of the substance of a falling dewdrop—but there's plenty of beauty in that brief splash.