The Girl on the Bridge (La fille sur le pont)

France (1999) Dir. Patrice Leconte

Adèle (Vanessa Paradis) is a depressed young woman who believes she has no luck in life and thus it is not worth living. She is on a bridge plucking up the courage to jump when she is stopped by the charismatic Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) who tries to talk Adèle out of jumping but she jumps anyway. Gabor jumps in after her and both survive so Gabor – a knife throwing cabaret performer – takes Adèle on a journey to show she is not just lucky but can bring luck to.

Shot in black and white, this is another French twist on the old guardian angle premise – a more recent one being Luc Besson’s stunning Angel A (also shot in black and white. A coincidence?). It opens with Adèle in a room retelling her story to an unseen interviewer and a room full of people before we get to the story proper.

Gabor initially approaches Adèle with some cynicism which may have been a ploy to anger her into dropping her suicidal endeavour, although it makes her drop herself in the river instead. There is of course something slightly otherworldly about Gabor suggested throughout, from his ability to lead Adèle to great success to his suspicious supply of watches (an early key factor to his winning over Adèle).

In a nod to Pretty Woman, Gabor takes Adèle on a makeover/shopping spree and then weasel their way into a show with no invitation. Gift of the gab doesn’t even begin to cover it. This is the start of a relationship which sees Gabor acting as a chaperone as much as he is a Guardian Angel with some form of telepathic communication evolving over time through their luck building exploits.

Their journey takes them from the lush night clubs of Paris to the stages of Italy to a cruise ship bound for Greece. It is here that their routine for a wedding party leads to the break up of the married couple when Adèle runs off with the Greek groom (Demetre Georgalas)! Disaster is not to far away on may fronts as Garbo recruits the ditched Italian bride (Isabelle Petit-Jacques) as Adèle’s replacement. Can you say “Bloody hell”?

The relationship remains tentatively platonic, although to show Adèle’s progress in finding her inner confidence and faith in herself, she finds some kind of erotic and sensuous pleasure from Gabor’s knife throwing. Even with Adèle seeking physical gratification from the new found interest men appear to have in her this film isn’t smutty and instead carries with it a romantic lyricism only the French can deliver.

It is arty in the way it is shot – an HD BluRay print of this would be a delight to see – and the telling of the story doesn’t always follow the linear rules of other romantic comedies but don’t be mistaken in thinking this is an impenetrable arthouse flick because of that– its energy and engaging performances from both Auteuil and surprisingly Paradis (for me she isn’t the mesmerising beauty she is portrayed in the film but I will agree with Gabor in that she has a nice bum) put this on a par with other quirky romance yarns like this.

The Girl on the Bridge is both familiar fodder and different at the same time. Those who like a fresh spin on a well worn concept should make a point to check this title out.