Fans of French cinema can save their francs and avoid “The Bridge” (“Un pont entre deux rives”), an anemic whimper of a love triangle which is currently hopscotching its way around the art house circuit. If “The Bridge” has one redeeming feature, it is proof that even the French are capable of producing the forgettable.
“The Bridge” takes place in a small town in 1961, and we are constantly reminded of that year by the endless references to the hit films (“Jules and Jim,” “West Side Story,” “The Misfits”) playing in the local bijou. The hero of this tale is Georges (Gerard Depardieu), a good-natured slob who once ran a contracting business but now wastes his time and money as a small-time gambler. His patient stay-at-home wife Mina (Carole Bouquet) wounds Georges’ pride by taking a job as a maid in a friend’s mansion. Georges, embarrassed that the lady of the house is now supporting their family, takes a construction job on a bridge. But while Georges is away, Mina gets involved in a messy affair with Matthias (Charles Berling), the architect on the bridge. Needless to say, the merde hits the fan when Georges discovers somebody sleeping in his bed!
Overlooking the quotidian plot, “The Bridge” offers some unintentional humor in its unlikely casting. Carole Bouquet, a one-time James Bond leading lady and a former Chanel spokesmodel, is inanely miscast as the ordinary small town wife. Despite an on-screen assignment as a maid (not to mention the half-hearted attempts to clothe her in the French equivalent of Sears Roebuck dresses), the actress is so glamourous and alluring that it’s amazing that all of the men in the film aren’t pulling up her dress. Further complicating matters is the cadaverous Charles Berling, whose creepy demeanor, chalk-pale skin and hollow eyes could only appeal to necrophiliacs. In the tradition of that great French lover Pepe Le Pew, Berling throws himself repeatedly and absurdly at the lovely Bouquet–but the pairing of the drop-dead beautiful actress with the ghastly actor offers either chills or laughs, depending on your mindframe.
It is no surprise that poor Depardieu walks around the screen with a grumpy and uneasy look, as if he wished he was in another film. “The Bridge” was co-directed by Depardieu, who shared the behind-the-camera blame with composer Frederic Auburtin. Clearly in the case of this sorry production, two heads were not better than one.