La Fille sur le pont Review
Patrice Leconte's La Fille sur le pont (titled Girl On The Bridge in English speaking countries) is a marvellous film full of wondrous and charming delights, and yet it only runs for approximately one-and-a-half hours. The eighty-nine minute runtime is usually associated with mainstream Hollywood comedy, as worthier films are usually granted more minutes in the cutting room to compensate the filmmakers for their efforts. However, the beautiful thing about La Fille sur le pont's runtime is the fact that it does more in that short time than many films struggle to do in three hours.
Shot in extremely deep and luminous black-and-white photography, La Fille sur le pont is a story of two people who seem to resist their inner compulsions. Adèle (Vanessa Paradis) is a young and gorgeous woman apparently destined for aimless disillusionment amidst romantic fulfilment. Adèle has decided to take her own life, and is moments before jumping off a bridge when a mysterious stranger offers her an alternative solution to a predicament. The stranger is Gabor (Daniel Auteil), a circus knife-thrower who is searching for a new assistant (target) for his act. Gabor is confident in his abilities, but there is always a chance that he could miss and accidentally kill his assistants. What has Adèle got to lose? Therefore, she climbs off the bridge and plunges herself into the almost mystical world of Gabor and his knife-throwing; a world in which the two seem to share a stronger force of destiny that they can contain.
La Fille sur le pont is the type of film that, for most of its duration, leaves the audience unsure as to the motivations of the characters. Yet, it deftly dangles enough of a dramatic pull in front of its viewers in order to draw them towards the conclusion. The two central performances are so perfect in their character depictions that you instantly believe the notion that they exhibit the quirky cinematic world of La Fille sur le pont. Vanessa Paradis and Daniel Auteil provide such dynamic facial expressions that the film could almost be silent and none of the dramatic impact of the film would be lost. There at times when the two are such a resemblance of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Godard's À bout de souffle that it almost feels intentional. Paradis is dizzyingly erotic as Adèle, due mainly to her fraught emotionality and her delightful attraction to anything slightly risqué. Auteil provides a splendidly worn facial feature to Gabor, as if the man has been gradually tainted by his torturous mission to repair misguided souls. The character chemistry between the two is edifying in its depth - it seems totally simplistic on the surface, but completely complex and almost seismic beyond this surface.
The director of La Fille sur le pont, Patrice Leconte, clearly exhibits the confidence he has in both his characters' structure and his own understanding of the characters. Leconte seems to strive to tremendous lengths in order to help the audience to understand the mystical forces that are at work during the film. Particularly important in the film is the concept of luck. Luck is presented as a force of desire, as if it suggests that anyone who doesn't achieve his or her aims is therefore unlucky. Notice how this is juxtaposed with Gabor and Adèle's friendship; as soon as they are together they are suddenly extremely lucky at gambling, ironically because their lives are now preoccupied with other non-materialistic pursuits.
The act of knife-throwing is used as the act of sexual intercourse by Leconte during La Fille sur le pont; with the knife representing penetration. This is further exemplified by the fact that Adèle seems to voice the sound of sexual delight whilst each knife is thrown. It's as if the two are deliberately preventing themselves from engaging in 'traditional' routes of intercourse, and have instead created a substitute mode of intercourse.
Technically, La Fille sur le pont is very impressive, from the use of starling black-and-white photography by cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou through to the employment of Marianne Faithful on some of the film's soundtrack songs. The viewer is instantly aware that the aura of La Fille sur le pont is one of exquisite delight in every department.
It's a tribute to the film's fantastic structuring that a film so romantic can happily abandon the need for sentiment (this is certainly not your average Amelie) or gratuitous sex scenes, and La Fille sur le pont is another example of the fact that when it comes to depicting the bare essentials of love and dependence, France is still effortlessly ahead of the field.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1, the PAL transfer is exceptionally good, with only the slightest detection of grain the only obvious detriment. The black and white images are splendidly sharp and detailed, and the luminous shades of white fill the screen wonderfully.
Presented in 5.1 French language surround, the sound track is full of clarity and free of hiss and defects even if dynamic surround elements are mostly lacking with regards to dialogue, which seems to be constricted mostly to the centre section of the channels. However, the musical track is given better treatment, and receives more fuller spatial channelling.
Menu: A silent, static menu incorporating promotional artwork from the film.
Packaging: The usual standard Fox Pathè release, with transparent amaray packaging and chapter listings printed on the reverse of the inlay card.
Trailer: The trailer for the foreign markets is presented here, in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen and devoid of any dialogue, in order to fool mainstream audiences into believing the film is an English language release.
A brilliant and concise dose of French romanticism, made in the way only the French know how, is released on a barebones but technically excellent DVD that is a fine edition to any cinema lovers collection. The picture and sound qualities truly complement the film, and credit should go to Fox Pathè for both releasing the film and giving the film as decent a DVD presentation that a barebones release could receive.