Very few actors, let alone young ones, can pull off what 20-something chanteuse-turned-actrice Vanessa Paradis does in the opening minutes of Patrice Leconte’s romantic drama. In a single take broken only by an occasional white-on-black credit card, Paradis’ Adele confides to an unseen interrogator the reasons for her depression. It is never explained exactly to whom she is speaking and in what type of situation, but that is of little consequence — in these scant minutes, the audience instantly is given a vivid portrait of what the character is all about: her youthful recklessness and naïveté, her sexual abandon and her romantic soul. While kudos go to writer Serge Frydman, it is Paradis who brings the scene and Adele to robust life.
However, in Adele’s eyes, her life isn’t quite so healthy, and as such she becomes the titular girl on the bridge, ready to jump when she meets Gabor (Daniel Auteuil), a knife thrower in need of a new target. Since she clearly has no fear of danger, Adele is a perfect match — though it comes to a surprise to both of them just how well they complement each other, for these two historically down-on-their-luck characters find themselves on an incredible streak of good fortune as they wow crowds throughout Europe. But as with all things, what comes up must come down.
“La Fille sur le Pont” is a magical film in all senses. On a literal level, the surreal psychic bond that develops between Adele and Gabor pushes the film into the realm of magical realism, and their knife throwing scenes bear a not-so-subtle, otherworldly erotic charge. But the real magic comes in watching the warm sparks between Paradis and Auteuil and following their eccentric characters’ beautiful, unconventional relationship. Jean-Marie Dreujou’s stunning black-and-white cinematography and Leconte’s smart choices in music (there is no original composed score) add to the film’s whimsical, timeless spell.