: In his magical, erotic eighteenth feature, French director Patrice
Leconte (RIDICULE, MONSIEUR HIRE) captivates viewers from the first
elegant black and white frame. In the prologue, fragile beauty Adele
(Vanessa Paradis) recounts her wayward, sadly promiscuous past in a
comically matter-of-fact manner. Despite the lighthearted telling, Adele
sees her life (all twenty-two years of it) as a tragic run of bad luck,
leading her to a bridge on the Seine. She is saved from suicide by the
arrival of Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) who jumps in after her. After the
rescue, Gabor whisks Adele away to be the new assistant for his knife-throwing
act. She blooms under his tutelage, and Gabor reaches new heights of
his craft conceding that before Adele, he too, was lost. They happily
traverse the Mediterranean, performing for thrilled crowds, and find
they share a mystical, telepathic bond that comes in handy in casinos.
As their feelings deepen, the knife-act becomes an erotic substitute,
fraught with sexual tension (particularly in the beautiful scene beneath
a railway bridge set to Marianne Faithful). Will the two realize in
time that like the torn half of a dollar bill that Gabor gives Adele,
each is useless apart?
'The Girl on the Bridge'
The lighter side of suicide
Leave it to the French to show us the lighter side of suicide, and introduce
us to the erotic art of knife-throwing.
The girl on the bridge is Adele (Vanessa Paradis), a depressed young
thing with enormous dark eyes, a gap-toothed smile, and cheekbones to
kill for. It is difficult for this mere woman to understand what Adele's
depression is about, but it seems she has what she calls bad luck with
men. Most of us would call it extraordinarily bad taste; she can be
seduced by almost literally anyone -- any line works, all propositions
are cheerfully agreed to; not surprisingly, as she puts it, "I've
been conned every day of my life. I'm like a vacuum cleaner, picking
up all the crud left behind."
Well, what can you expect, when you start your amorous life with a tryst
in a gas station restroom, as she recounts matter-of-factly to a roomful
So she stands on a bridge near the Eiffel Tower, revving up to jump
off and end it all. As she stands there contemplating her shoes, Gabor
(Daniel Auteuil) shows up to find out why she wants to jump. When she
tells him about her bad luck, he retorts, "Luck? What do you think
luck is? You think you catch it like a cold?"
She does jump. After he fishes her out of the river, he tells her that
he is a knife-thrower (circus type) and needs a target for his act.
Adele isn't too sure about this; however, lacking a better job offer,
she decides to give it a whirl -- until he actually starts heaving those
sharp objects her way. She starts to run, but he convinces her to stay
(too easy, this girl), and impresses her with a marvelous shopping expedition
the next day.
He talks her into a circus gig in Monaco. He doesn't tell her until
it's too late that he has agreed to do it "à l'aveugle,"
blind. They are, needless to say, a sensation; Adele, having survived
this, begins to get erotic rushes out of these shows (I told you she
was easy). She explains that it is a combination of fear and pleasure
that does it. The two of them spend more and more time rehearsing, and
even develop a sort of telepathy that allows her to direct the knives.
Gabor and Adele go on the road, Adele giving in to whatever offer she
receives from the men who wander by, until they end up as entertainment
on a Mediterranean cruise ship. There she meets a Greek named Takis
who has just married a nice Italian girl.
Yep, you guessed it, only this time Adele actually leaves Gabor on the
cruise ship and takes off in a rowboat with Takis. (What did I tell
you about the French light touch?)
It's goofy, yes, and so is much of the rest of the film, but it is done
so deftly that you'll be enthralled -- with most of it, anyway. The
one letdown is the overall predictability of the plot, but since it's
a romantic comedy that can perhaps be overlooked.
On a deeper level, the film is about the erotic effects of risk-taking
and danger. Director Patrice Leconte has been quoted as saying that
"life is only possible if you believe in fate, emotion and instinct;"
Adele is the embodiment of that belief.
It would be tempting to speculate on the significance of Leconte's use
of black and white over color. It is not, Leconte says, a conscious
allusion to Fellini's "La Strada," though he is flattered
that some have compared the two. The whimsical fact is that he did it
because his previous film -- "Une Chance Sur Deux" -- had
too many colors. He tried black and white; the actors loved it, et voilà.
Vanessa Paradis is simply terrific as Adele; not only does she look
great, but she can almost convince you that her problem is bad luck.
Daniel Auteuil is equally persuasive as Gabor; he too has enormous eyes
that can sear right into your soul, or at least your loins.
Opens Aug. 18 at La Jolla Village Cinemas. In French with English subtitles.