Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Bridge Over a Troubled Viewer's Head: "Girl on the Bridge" (2000)

There's nothing like a good French film. And this is nothing like a good French film.

Told in stark, unnecessary black and white, Vanessa Paradis is Adele, a flighty young woman who changes lovers more often than she changes her socks. The opening scenes show her confessing her rocky love life to an anonymous group of people. She decides that life isn't worth living, and goes to her local Parisian bridge to throw herself off.

There she meets Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) a despondent knife thrower desperate for a new target. Gabor hires Adele, but she throws herself in the drink anyway. Gabor jumps in after her, saves her, and the two end up in the hospital. They escape, and Gabor practices on her in a parking garage. They take a train to southern France, and Adele has a fling with a steward. In the Riviera, Gabor totally makes over Adele, cutting her hair and buying new clothes, and maxing out his credit card. As the duo prepare for the show, Gabor is bumped so he offers to throw knives as Adele if she is hidden behind a sheet.

Adele survives the act, save a nick on the arm, and tries to sleep with the show's contortionist. Gabor and Adele play off the fact that Adele is extremely lucky, and the two share a psychic connection, able to converse with each other at great distances. Adele gambles and wins tons of money. The two head to Italy for another show, win a car in a raffle, and run off the road when they drive at night without headlights. The couple is stranded and Adele finds an expensive cigarette lighter. Gabor leaves Adele at a cafe, where she attempts to sleep with a waiter there. She realizes her mistake, and catches Gabor at a train station.

At the station, Gabor and Adele make love their own way. Gabor throws knives at Adele as she writhes in passion, and for the only time in the film, Gabor does not accidentally nick Adele's arm. The two head off to a cruise ship, where Adele is now placed on a spinning wheel. A wedding on board introduces Takis, who owns the found lighter. Adele and Takis leave together, and Takis' spurned wife becomes Gabor's new target. He puts a knife in the bride's leg, and is set ashore in Turkey, making his way to Istanbul. Adele and Takis are stranded at sea, and they are rescued and taken to Greece. Takis dumps Adele right away, and Adele and Gabor converse over the distance. As a despondent Gabor decides to throw himself off an Istanbul bridge, guess who shows up to save him...

This is the kind of film that turns people off to foreign films. The black and white photography is crisp, but I do not know why this was shot that way. Black and white worked perfectly for "The Red Dwarf," but here it is artsy. Leconte's direction is wonderful, but the script is so lightweight and silly, it quickly becomes routine. The film is barely an hour and a half, and seems longer.

Paradis and Auteuil are fine, but their performances are good because their characters are so unchallenging. I did not like Adele from the beginning, and Gabor's obsession with her was a mystery. I would compare her to the Andie MacDowell character in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," wondering why the leading man was head over heels with this vapid creation. The subplot about luck and psychic abilities seems convenient. The only really entertaining scene is when Gabor and Adele "make love" at the train station. Marianne Faithful's song "Who Will Take My Dreams Away?" is played during some of the knife throwing scenes, and the scene is sexy. Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" and some of Benny Goodman's tunes show up as well, neither as effective as Faithful's.

It could be argued that this is nothing more than lightweight fare. No, "Girl on the Bridge" should be crossed over and forgotten. The screenwriter made a souffle of air that does not fill. (*) out of five stars.