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'Girl on the Bridge'

'Girl on the Bridge' balances drama and beauty

Friday, October 06, 2000

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Adele, a beautiful waif just shy of 22, believes she is cursed with bad luck. She never picks a winning number and considers herself a human vacuum cleaner, "picking up dirt left behind" and a procession of men for short-lived affairs.

'Girl On The Bridge'

RATING: R for some sexuality

STARRING: Daniel Auteuil, Vanessa Paradis

DIRECTOR: Patrice Leconte

WEB SITE: www.paramount

CRITIC'S CALL: 3 1/2 stars


Being lucky is like being blessed with an ear for music, you either have it or you don't, she argues early in the French film "Girl on the Bridge," now at the Regent Square Theater. "Everything I touch turns sour. ... Some people are born to be happy. I get conned every day of my life."

Adele (Vanessa Paradis) becomes the title character, about to jump into the Seine river in Paris. But, like Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life," she encounters a mysterious stranger on the span. He is not an ancient angel earning his wings but a knife-thrower named Gabor (Daniel Auteuil), whose aim can be erratic, now that he's past 40.

She proceeds as planned into the water. He follows. They land in the hospital and then bolt for a new life as a team. He's the knife thrower, and she, more importantly, is the target, the one the audience cares about. He molds her into an even more fetching mark, with professionally styled hair, new makeup and costumes that almost give her a flapper look.

And then they begin their dance with danger and eroticism. On stage before a black-tie audience, he hurls long, sharp knives at her -- sometimes throwing blind -- and she escapes injury, except for tiny cuts. The act produces an intoxicating mix of fear and pleasure, for both of them.

Together they achieve what eluded them singly: luck, success and an unusual sexual satisfaction. But old habits resurface, putting their teamwork, livelihood and telepathic and tempestuous relationship at risk.

Director Patrice Leconte's "Girl on the Bridge" is shot in black and white, and the images are rich, luminous and Fellini-esque, especially when the pair are back stage with plate spinners, showgirls, a contortionist and a fact-spouting dwarf. Gabor stands before rivulets of white lights on a black curtain, further heightening the dramatic effect. Later, sunlight slices and shoots through wooden boards behind Adele.

Auteuil won the Cesar, the French version of the Academy Award, for his work as Gabor. Last seen here on screen in the French Resistance tale "Lucie Aubrac," he is as quirkily handsome and haunting and versatile as ever. When he hurls those knives, he makes you believe he knows what he's doing.

Paradis, Johnny Depp's companion, has a face that almost seems suited to silent films. A former teen pop star, she has big expressive eyes, widely spaced teeth and a delicacy that calls to mind the earliest movie actresses who were mere slips of women. Paradis brings a vulnerability and impulsiveness to Adele, who confesses "boys attract me like beautiful clothes. I always want to try them on," and they don't object.

The white English subtitles, unfortunately, are obscured in a few scenes but generally are quite legible. Like Adele's leap from the bridge, "Girl" launches us into an exploration of luck and love that echoes films past and reinvents the fairy tale.

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