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Paramount Classics
Official Site

Director: Patrice Leconte

Producer: Christian Fechner

Written by: Serge Frydman

Cast: Vanessa Paradis, Daniel Auteuil, Frédéric Pfluger, Demetre Georgalas, Catherine Lascault, Isabelle Petit-Jacques

Rating: out of 5

If youíre like me, then you just donít go out of your way to see French films. I knew the French probably made perfectly fine movies, but it seemed like I was never in the mood to actually see one. GIRL ON THE BRIDGE has turned me around. Do the French always make such delightful movies populated with unique characters doing interesting things? I hope not, or Iíll need to order "Berlitz French For Beginners," stop brushing my teeth, and start brushing up on my Jean-Paul Sartres, because Iíll be moving to gay Paree!

Adele (Paradis) is an unhappy young girl whose sexual appetite and ill-chosen romances have led to a miserable relationship with every man sheís ever been with. Convinced that her luck is always bad and that nothing will improve, she steps out onto a bridge one night in Paris and prepares to jump. Out of the shadows steps Gabor (Auteuil), a rumpled, middle-aged knife thrower who recruits girls with suicidal tendencies to be the human targets in his act. He sees something special in Adele, an incredible luck that just hasnít risen to the surface. He asks her to be his lovely assistant. She jumps anyway.

This unexpected beginning sets in motion an unpredictable story that explores the relationship between these two. It is a romantic comedy, but unlike American romantic comedies, its leads are neither stereotypical nor archetypal; they are interesting. It is also a road-trip movie, but unlike the typical American picaresque, all events that occur are directly linked to the filmís themes of luck, desire and love. The movie is very tight. It seems deceptively simple, but at no point did I feel like I knew how things were going to play out.

Paradis and Auteuil glow in their roles, and their chemistry is completely convincing. The inherent creepiness of a relationship between a young woman and a man at least 20 years her senior has been the bane of several films. (That AUTUMN IN NEW YORK movie with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder gives me the willies.) But writer Frydman and director Leconte have come up with an ingenious way to make Gabor and Adeleís relationship extremely erotic without making the audience feel dirty. I wonít ruin how; youíll just have to go see it.

Black-and-white, May-December romance, existential fantasy comedy circus-performer road-trip movies donít just come along every day, and I will go out on a limb and say GIRL ON THE BRIDGE is the definitive one. The writing is sharp, the performances are compelling, and the black-and-white cinematography is simply beautiful. The final shot will stay with you long afterward.

If most of you are like me, you stay away from French films. But if you are like me, then I can safely say that you will really enjoy this film. If this is representative of French cinema, then I say I was an ignorant American pig and "Vive le France!"

ó QUIN ARBEITMAN: Thespian Extraordinaire

HYBRID Ratings Guide:

- Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

- Itís worth a full-price ticket.

- Itís worth a matinee ticket.

- Wait for video rental.

- Check out the video from the library, if you must.

- While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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