The Girl On The Bridge

on July 28, 2000 by Susan Green
   Whimsy is the guiding force of Patrice Leconte's new romantic comedy--unfortunately, it's forced whimsy. The auteur behind "Ridicule" and "Monsieur Hire" tries very hard to win over his audience with caprice in "The Girl on the Bridge," a black-and-white confection about a couple so right for each other that good fortune only blesses them when they're together.

   The problem with this intriguing premise of fate superceding free will is that the people in question are the middle-aged Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) and the twentysomething Adele (Vanessa Paradis). That's right, yet another in a long line of films pairing a not-so-attractive older man and a stunning younger woman more than half his age. It's really a genre unto itself, a male prerogative that has become exceedingly tiresome. In recent memory, only "Guinevere" by Audrey Wells boasts a character-driven reason for fabricating such a May-December union.

   Gabor is an unlucky circus knife-thrower able to persuade the suicidal Adele, whose a taste in men invariably brings her nothing but sorrow, to refrain from jumping off a Paris bridge. Instead, she agrees to become the human target in his act during a European tour. What has she got to lose?

   Although their relationship remains chaste, the knives Gabor aims so close to Adele's body are a turn-on for her, making their performances sensual in a largely slapstick fashion. And the show grows more and more risky when they realize mutual serendipity is invincible. When the twosome hits a casino, jackpots abound thanks to their powers of extra-sensory perception.

   Yet love continues to elude them. So they go their separate ways, each finding only despair while alone in the world. A soundtrack lament by singer Marianne Faithfull underscores their tristesse but inevitability triumphs. Whimsically, of course. Starring Daniel Auteuil, Vanessa Paradis, Demetre Georgalas, Isabelle Petit-Jacques and Frederic Pfluger. Directed by Patrice Leconte. Written by Serge Frydman. Produced by Christian Fechner. A Paramount Classics release. Comedy/Fantasy. French-language; subtitled. Rated R for some sexuality. Running time: 92 min

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