Girl On The Bridge

French director Patrice Leconte specializes in stylish, erotically charged amour fou, romantic flings that spark for mysterious reasons and are destined to burn out just as quickly. To Leconte's lovers, nothing exists outside their intense feelings for each other, creating an insular universe that's slight but frequently intoxicating. His superb 1989 thriller Monsieur Hire paired a middle-aged voyeur and suspected killer with the much younger object of his obsession; his follow-up, 1992's The Hairdresser's Husband, convincingly depicted a hair salon as the locus of sensuality. Leconte's latest, Girl On The Bridge, has a more ridiculous coupling than either of them (a knife-thrower and a suicidal nymphet who becomes his human target), but it's treated with a seriousness that too often edges into high camp. Photographed in luscious, widescreen black and white, the film stars the estimable Daniel Auteuil as a road performer who discovers Vanessa Paradis hovering over a Paris bridge at night, ready to plunge into the Seine. The smooth talker convinces her to take part in his act; after all, if a knife goes astray, the end result is no different than if he hadn't stepped into her life. As they successfully tour the northern bank of the Mediterranean, the two barely maintain a platonic relationship, feeding off a strange symbiosis that brings them good fortune. The unaccountable forces of fate and luck play a major role in Girl On The Bridge, certainly more than the would-be lovers themselves ever realize. And trust, too, given that a slip of Auteuil's hand could end Paradis' life. A romance this star-crossed and overheated warrants a lighter treatment, but Leconte apparently doesn't recognize the silliness inherent to his story. Instead, he gasses it up: If the association between throwing knives and sexual penetration weren't already obvious, a train scene in which Paradis plays target—back arched, perspiring, with shafts of light streaming through slats in the wood behind her—makes it laughably clear. Leconte's style is as lush and rhapsodic as ever, but with Girl On The Bridge, his taste for romantic fatalism has finally gotten the better of him.

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