Daniel Auteuil and Vanessa Paradis star in THE GIRL ON THE BRIDGE, directed by Patrice Leconte for UGC-Fox Distribution.

The Girl on the Bridge (1999, Patrice Leconte)

I really didn’t think there’d be much to say about Girl on the Bridge. It goes for a mediocre charming and it easily attains it. The opening suggests something a little different–it’s a long scene, which may or may not have edits (but if it does, one isn’t supposed to notice them) with Vanessa Paradis telling her life story to a room full of people. The context is never explained and, immediately following, she ends up on the titular bridge, ready to jump, only to be saved by fellow discontent Daniel Auteuil.

The majority of the film operates under a simple set of agreements. First and foremost, Auteuil is charming. He’s world-weary, he’s old enough to be Paradis’s father, he’s an underdog. Second, Paradis is charming. She’s above reproach, occasionally precious, also an underdog. The film’s constantly reminding how the two are unlucky in everything but each other. It could be the tag line.

Except Girl on the Bridge also operates under the assumption it isn’t going to be a tag line-friendly film. Patrice Leconte’s Panavision composition is fantastic. A lot of the film is impeccably directed, with certain sequences standing out–there’s a beautiful night drive through the Italian countryside–Jean-Marie Dreujou’s black and white cinematography is a perfect example of how that medium allows for a lot more vividness than color ever can. There’s also an eclectic, romantic soundtrack of American standards. The film takes place in scenic European spots. Being American, they seem even more scenic to me, I suppose, but it’s definitely intentioned to have engender some response (a generally lifeless Paris to a fantastic Monte Carlo–I think–followed by Italy, Greece and Turkey).

If that last feature seems out of place–a travelogue in this purportedly avant-garde effort–it should. For all its hubbub, Girl on the Bridge is incredibly standard. Paradis goes from lover to lover, only to discover she’s best with Auteuil–he’s a knife-thrower, she’s his target. Are there a couple metaphor-heavy knife-throwing as sex scenes? Yep. They’re solid filmmaking, but they’re so obvious I’m using a rhetorical question for the first time in a while. They, along with the absurdity of narrative (the film proposes the two characters as damaged leads in a fairy tale), are what keeps Girl on the Bridge down for the majority of the running time. Like I said, a mediocre charming and nothing more. There’s a strange lack of ambition to the film. A false passion.

Until the third act, which is an absolute disaster. It includes scenes of the characters talking to each other across great distances–carrying on real, not imagined conversations–here’s that fairy tale aspect–and some tugging on the melodramatic heartstrings. Without Paradis, the film turns into Auteuil’s plunge into depression. The third act practically opens with a title card announcing it and the end is predictable from that moment.

The film’s got some real potential and there are a lot of good and great things about it, but it fails miserably. It’s actually somewhat embarrassing.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Patrice Leconte; written by Serge Frydman; director of photography, Jean-Marie Dreujou; edited by Joëlle Hache; production designer, Ivan Maussion; produced by Christian Fechner; released by UGC-Fox Distribution.

Starring Daniel Auteuil (Gabor), Vanessa Paradis (Adèle), Bertie Cortez (Kusak), Giorgios Gatzios (Barker), Demetre Georgalas (Takis), Luc Palun (Stage Manager), Isabelle Petit-Jacques (Bride), Frédéric Pfluger (Contortionist) and Natascha Solignac (Nurse).

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