Girl On The Bridge

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The youngest of the Lisbon girls in The Virgin Suicides is told by her psychiatrist, "You aren't old enough to know how bad life gets." Twenty-one-year-old Adele, in The Girl On The Bridge, is told by a middle-aged knife-thrower, "You are too young to be sad."

Age has nothing to do with it. Passion and loneliness rage against constriction. Adele needs sex to remind her that she is alive, although destined, it seems, to chose the wrong men and believe always in what she is told.

She comes to the bridge to jump. The knife thrower comes to find a target, or so he says. Chances are he's there for the same reason. He talks her round and in doing so saves himself. He trains her to be his target and they begin a journey through Europe, in circuses and Mediterranean cruise ship cabarets.

Patrice Leconte is a director who creates his own world, which never corresponds to the mundanity of ordinary life. There is always a sheen, a glamour, an emotional hook, highly charged with eroticism. "With your body and my skill, we'll kill them," the knife thrower says. "Kill who?" Adele asks. The answer is us, because Leconte understands how to seduce an audience, even in black-and-white.

The intensity of their act is sexual in everything but form. The power of the partnership is enhanced by its unconsummated energy, the attraction enriched by danger.

Vanessa Paradis conveys the instinct and desire of the child woman with flirtatious innocence. To dismiss Adele as a nymphomaniac would completely miss the point. She likes to give, she enjoys the warmth, she expects truth. Her disappointments are legion and she blames herself. When luck is bad, it sticks like tar. Adele is a tar baby until she discovers in the knife thrower a conduit for hope.

Daniel Auteuil replaces his natural charm with a world weary acceptance of age as a chasm between possibility and defeat. More than anything, the knife thrower is an artist, a man who has spent his life perfecting skills that lose their novelty and curb expectation. In his eyes, you see fear with every throw of the blade. "After 40, you get erratic."

Leconte's genius is in making a fable breathe and allowing romance the freedom to find itself.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A girl becomes the 'target' for a knife thrower after he talks her out of suicide.
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