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Moriarty's GIRL ON THE BRIDGE Review!!

Hey, everyone.

"Moriarty" here.

In the past few weeks, I've been asked many times why I do what I do for Ain't It Cool News, both in public and in private e-mail. There are many reasons. First, I do it because I have found a kindred spirit and a good friend in Harry Knowles, perhaps the only person I have ever met more crazy in love with movies than I am. Second, I do it because I enjoy the dialogue that's been opened with you, our readers. Third, I do it because even if I didn't have this particular platform for publication, I'd still be doing all the same things... reading scripts, seeing every possible early screening of a film, visiting sets... because I was doing that long before there was an AICN, just for the sake of my own continuing education about this business and this art.

But there's one reason that supercedes all others, and I got a very potent reminder of that last week when John Robie and I were fortunate enough to attend a screening of Patrice Leconte's beautiful and luminous new film LA FILLE SUR LA PONT, or GIRL ON THE BRIDGE. It's beginning its theatrical rollout today in New York and Los Angeles, and I can't say this strongly enough: if you love movies, you owe it to yourself to experience this incandescent marvel on the big screen. It's one of those wonderful surprises that caught me off-guard, turned me inside out, and stole my heart, and it will do the same to you.

This film's not exactly a secret. I've heard critics rumbling about it since Telluride last year. It was nominated for eight Cesar awards, and lead actor Daniel Auteuil won for Best Actor, deservedly. It's his performance as Gabor that gives the film its beating heart, and he brings a remarkable hangdog charisma to the proceedings. There's something incomplete about Gabor, and he's obviously a man who has been battered about by life. He needs someone to complete him, to make his act work, and the toll that it takes is written large in those features of his. He's got the second greatest face in the film, the winner of that particular contest being Vanessa Paradis, a radiant presence here. Leconte is in love with these faces, and by the end of the film, you will be, too.

For me, it took all of ten minutes to fall head over heels for Paradis. That's about the length of the mesmerizing opening sequence in which we meet Adele, a young woman who speaks with an unseen offscreen inquisitor about love and luck and her life so far. Adele speaks frankly of the way she has always defined herself through the men she's slept with. "Life only starts when you make love. Until then, you're nothing," she says. Adele truly believes that she is doomed, that love is no good for her. Paradis is funny and quick and so alive in this scene, making Adele's complaints of failed love seem preposterous. Her easy gap-toothed smile lights her up, her slight imperfections lending her a glow, a classic beauty that would suggest immeasurable inner joy.

Still, when we next see Adele, she's standing on the edge of the bridge, staring down into the icy black water of the Seine, tears drying on her cheeks. As she considers the jump, she is approached by Gabor, who almost immediately tunes into Adele's doomed sense of fatalism. "We always think that luck is that which we don't have," Gabor says, daring her not to jump. He speaks to her of luck and the potential for change. He offers her a chance at change. And when she's heard all his talk and entertained his offer, she jumps anyway. Gabor goes after her, rescues her. In the hospital where they are taken to warm up, he makes her an offer. He is a knife thrower, and he needs a target. If her life is so useless, he reasons, then why not take this risk? Adele can't resist his reasoning, and they leave together.

Gabor assures Adele at first that he has no romantic intentions for her. He takes her out shopping, takes her to have her hair styled, spends money to make sure that the rough edges are all smoothed out and that she is a sleek, stunning version of herself. "The audience has to fall in love with you," he tells her, and in their first performance together, which her performs blindfolded, the audience does exactly that. Part of what makes the scene so great is the way Leconte makes the experience almost completely subjective, forcing us to feel the terror of a knife nicking us as it slams home into think wood, sticking. What spins out from that unlikely start is audacious and funny and sexy, a fairy tale drenched in romance, told with all the energy of last year's arthouse hit RUN LOLA RUN. Shot in lush black-and-white by Jean-Marie Dreujou, this is not as grungy or as edgy as LOLA. In many ways, this is a throwback to the pre-New Wave French cinema, glamorous and lovely. The look of this world keeps us from ever imagining that this is meant to be real, but at the same time, the black and white keeps the fairy tale from ever becoming so much lighter than air that it just floats away. There's one image in particular, a rainbow captured in black and white, that took my breath away. Leconte manages to dazzle us with our own world, just by seeing it through the eyes of these two people.

One of the greatest romantic films I've ever seen is Woody Allen's MANHATTAN, and this film definitely brought that picture to mind. There's the black and white, the amazing use of score, and the mix of unabashed romanticism and stark reality makes both films feel like remembered dreams. Near the end of MANHATTAN, Ike (Woody Allen) has made a terrible mistake in letting Tracy (Muriel Hemingway) go off to school in Europe without telling her how much he cares for her. As he sits, trying to work, trying to think of anything but her, he starts to make a list of the things that make life worth living. As he runs through his list, he surprises himself by saying, "Tracy's face." There's a great moment as he sits and lets that confession reverberate for himself before Allen cuts to Ike running through the streets, en route to find Tracy and tell her. There's a moment of realization here, a thunderclap in which someone realizes the truth about their own attraction to someone else, in which mere want becomes need, and it's so true, so earned, that I had to fight back laughter. Leconte just astonishes me here. The way he brings the film to visual life with quick cuts, the handheld camerawork that zooms in on odd details, the overall rhythms that are established by Joelle Hache's outstanding editing -- it's all in service of creating a spell that pulls us into the fim, that forces us to fall in love. Leconte knows the feeling, knows the way all of our senses conspire against us, and he has found a way of capturing those exact feelings and sensations on film. This follows films like RIDICULE, THE HAIRDRESSER'S HUSBAND, and MONSIEUR HIRE, all great in their own right, and cements Leconte as one of the sharpest, most important voices in international cinema.

By the time this film wraps up, there's no major sex scenes, no giant declarations of endless love. Instead, we are presented with something real, something fragile and new, and it's so much more satisfying as a result. I love these two people. I love the feeling that enveloped me as I watched this story unfold. I look forward to seeing this again this weekend, and to eventually owning and enjoying the film for years to come. This is an instant classic, if only for a knife throwing scene that comes at a crucial point in the relationship between Adele and Gabor, a moment in which the both of them turn the simple act of throwing knives into something else, something holy that only the two of them share and understand. The trust and the fear and the desire all combine to create one of the most erotically charged moments I can remember on film. If you're lucky enough to be in love this weekend and you want to share this film with someone special, or if you just want to feel as if you've found that new love, then make the effort and search this one out.

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • July 28, 2000, 12:07 p.m. CST

    Ain't It Sappy as Fuck

    by DredPirateSteven

    ...but I don't care. I will use my considerable powers to obtain a maybe even previously non-existent but now available due to my request screener for my home enjoyment.

  • July 28, 2000, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Please Please Please hurry on the next 90's list!

    by GravyAkira

    I am about to lose my mind over it. And please, no e-mails on how I have no life, I am just joking around.

  • July 28, 2000, 1:11 p.m. CST

    Thanks for the review Moriarty...

    by SCOTT1458

    but do we really need another foriegn love/sex arthouse film? Regardless, I love your articles.

  • July 28, 2000, 2:13 p.m. CST

    Thx Moriarty, I was hoping this would be another Leconte masterp

    by Fatal Discharge

    There ain't nothing wrong with big blow-em-up action films but Leconte's films are emotional and visually stunning "stories" which I haven't been able to forget since first seeing them. MONSIEUR HIRE involves a lonely man who may be a serial murderer but whose intentions are totally different than expected. THE HAIRDRESSER'S HUSBAND has to be one of the most simple and moving films I've ever seen about a man with a fetish for being in a barber's chair and finding perfect love with a woman barber. They realise life can't get any better so.... The ending is totally unexpected and will stay in your mind for a long time. RIDICULE is also very funny but tragic as well, sort of Dangerous Liaisons with one-liners about French royal society members who play games at putting down others to increase their position in the court with tragic consequences. I can't wait to see this new one - after all these mostly forgettable summer films this will most likely be the one I'll treasure for years to come.

  • July 28, 2000, 2:17 p.m. CST

    Great film, but the ending is weak...

    by Hjermsted

    I caught one of SIFF's showings of GIRL ON THE BRIDGE a few months ago here in Seattle. I agree with everything Moriarty has to say about this film. My only complaint with the picture was the overly somber, surreal and tacked-on feeling final 6 or 7 minutes. [SPOILAGE AHEAD -- TURN AWAY IF YOU NEED TO) Gabor is in Turkey, broke and alone. Adele is in Greece jilted, lonely and also struggling. I love the way they seem to communicate across the distances telepathically, I have no problem with that particular artistic liberty. I was unhappy with the filmmaker's choice of having Adele magically show up at the very bridge in Istanbul where Gabor is about to end it all with no hint or explanation as to how she got there. I found it too Disney-esque. Throughout the film we see how she gets to Monte Carlo, how she gets to Athens, etc. But there is no hint of how she gets from Athens to Istanbul... nor is there an indication of significant time passed for her to make that journey. She magically appears in an overpopulated city at the right place and the right time and the audience is supposed to chalk it up to the 'power of love' or something. Yes, I know this IS a love story, and I TOTALLY enjoyed the other 95% of this film, but the end did NOT work for me at all. It was way too contrived.

  • July 28, 2000, 2:40 p.m. CST

    Moriarty, you're such a softie!

    by r_dimitri22

    Unfortunately, I'm not in love this weekend (or whatever weekend this will be at a theater near me). Consequently, a viewing experience like this will only cause me pain. I think I'm going to go stand on the edge of a bridge so that a knife-throwing beauty will talk me down...

  • July 28, 2000, 3:38 p.m. CST is finally up

    by BillBragg

    looking for a new site to go hang out, well we just launced today and we need you guy's help. come tell us what you want in a site, read our reviews and articles, post your feedback to all of it, and join in on the forums which are coming soon. check us out and help us be the site that you all want... oh yea, and this movie sounds cool.

  • July 28, 2000, 3:57 p.m. CST

    This film is brillant

    by frenchie

    I really loved LA FILLE SUR LE PONT. French Cinema at its Best. (unlike my English :-)

  • July 28, 2000, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Thanks Moriarty

    by segundo

    I'll go and see it this week-end. Apparently Vanessa Paradis's performance is so good, Terry Gilliam immediately cast her in Man who killed Don Quixote when he saw it.

  • July 28, 2000, 5:05 p.m. CST

    The Hairdresser's Husband is a gorgeous movie. Anna Galiena in t

    by rockojinx

    Sterling performance from Jean Rochefort as Antoinne too. It's such a well told story that we the viewer feel just as happy as Antoinne and you almost feel as if you are right there in that little hairdresser's you can practically feel the breeze when Mathilde walks across the room and you cannot help but angry when the shocking denoument arrives. I'll definitely be looking out for this film. Mathilde, *sigh*....

  • July 28, 2000, 5:23 p.m. CST


    by bswise

    Oh, OK, a few more folks over here, yeah so anyway, as I was saying over at the Robo's review, I just saw this completely excellent french noir flick from '55 called RIFIFI(which was street slang for 'rough & tumble' or kind of 'sex with your tough-guy boyfriend who slaps you around' or something like that). It was by Jules Dassin, you know who made such American classics as NIGHT AND THE CITY and THE NAKED CITY before being blacklisted and sent packing. RIFIFI is really great with excellent characters, a lot of kinky humor in the first act, a killer 30-minute heist where nobody speaks in the middle, and the bitter finale when everything goes all to hell. It should be making the revival-house rounds, so keep yer eyes peeled!

  • July 28, 2000, 6:22 p.m. CST

    Oh no! Moriarty is Wrong!

    by solstiss

    This film is endearing and unusual, and there are some nice directorial flourishes from Leconte - but it is totally let down by a lazy ending that pretty much renders everything before it meaningless. Only the soppiest of romantics will leave the cinema without feeling short-changed and let down. This could have been an all time classic movie but it's just ends up as a sentimental, nicely shot love story that makes no sense.

  • July 29, 2000, 12:30 a.m. CST

    "The Klumps"

    by crimsonrage

  • July 29, 2000, 12:40 a.m. CST

    Oh...sorry, something weird happened.

    by crimsonrage

    Where is the forum to post our views of "TNP2:The Klumps"? I saw it after my parents dragged me to it (well, actually I'm always up for going to the movies, but I felt very "iffy" on this one). Well, it's not all that good, they needed more of the Klumps, less of Sherman (he's annoying), less of Janet (she's plastic, literally), and less of Buddy Love (he's.....I don't know what the hell he is , but it sure isn't funny). Try and count how many erection jokes there are, how many fart jokes there are, and how many times they say "titties", I bet it's in the hundreds. And men getting sodomized (or raped) is NOT funny, no matter how many movies say it is. Can you imagine the reaction if a woman being raped was played for laughs? That is all that I have say.

  • July 30, 2000, 11:23 a.m. CST

    I thought Godard directed this film.

    by Hugh_Jazz

    Felt that this film is a film for Godard lovers. I personally hate Godard with an absolute passion since usually his films involve caricatures of American films and nothing else. I could care less if he invented the "jump-cut." What I want to see is a good film. Girl on the Bridge is no exception. It takes the Hollywood glam (in French)of the 40's and converts it to a sense au faux pretentiousness. Great camerawork, though. But if Leconte fan are looking for another "Ridicule" or "Monsieur Hire," better luck next time!

  • July 30, 2000, 3:42 p.m. CST

    Glad to hear you liked it Drew...

    by Obscure Homage

    ...but after reading your What Lies Beneath review, and the degree to which you bashed the movie, I will never invest credence in any of your reviews. You owe Bob Zemeckis an apology for making his film sound like it was on par with all the other crappy summer 2k films that have been released thus far. Atone for your sins DREW!!