The Girl on the Bridge

France 1998

Reviewed by Ginette Vincendeau


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

France, the present. Young Adèle is interrogated by a psychologist, seemingly while in jail. She confesses to a string of sexual encounters and continuing bad luck. She is next found on a bridge in Paris, about to jump. Knife-thrower Gabor rescues her and offers her a job as a human target. In Monte Carlo, he changes her hairstyle and wardrobe. Their dangerous act (he throws knives blindfolded at Adèle) is popular and their relationship grows affectionate, although Adèle keeps having sex with other men. Gabor declares they are in luck as long as they stay together.

They win money in the casino and go to San Remo where they win a car in a lottery. They drive at night without lights and crash in a field. On a cruise ship, where Gabor throws knives while Adèle spins on the wheel of death, they meet newly married Takis and his bride. Adèle runs away with Takis. Gabor uses the bride as target but wounds her and loses his job. Meanwhile Takis' boat breaks down. He abandons Adèle, who ends up broke in Athens. Gabor turns up in Istanbul equally destitute. She finds him as he is about to jump into the Bosporus. They walk away together.


Popular French cinema usually comes to the UK in two guises: action thrillers, such as Luc Besson's, or heritage films, of which director Patrice Leconte's Ridicule is a good example. La Fille sur le pont is another kind of movie altogether, what one might call a 'popular auteur' French film. Made by a prominent director (Leconte) to a high standard of craftsmanship, featuring an ambitious contemporary script, it's nonetheless aimed at a mainstream audience. Leconte (who last November lead a controversial battle against French film critics for their alleged bias against French cinema) is now in the same class of renown as Bertrand Blier, Bertrand Tavernier and Coline Serreau, among others. However, La Fille sur le pont fizzled at the box office in France, despite its three-star - Leconte, Daniel Auteuil, Vanessa Paradis - status, humour and upbeat happy ending.

There's much to savour here: shot beautifully in black and white, the film features marvellous widescreen camerawork and excellent turns from Paradis and Auteuil. But these achievements, together with flamboyant dialogue à la Blier and pointed New Wave references (the Les Quatre Cent Coups-like interview with protagonist Adèle at the beginning, the La Baie des anges-style picture of the Côte d'Azur) cannot compensate for the script's flimsiness. Granted, as the film keeps telling us, we are watching a fairy tale: "I'm [her] good fairy," says knife-thrower Gabor of Adèle to a young man on the train; Adèle and Gabor act as good-luck charms to each other; significant objects mysteriously appear at key moments. But this tale of mutual salvation is strangely old-fashioned, despite Adèle's slangy lines and casual promiscuity. The view of the circus follows age-old cinematic clichés: circus people are basically sad, their acts disasters waiting to happen.

La Fille sur le pont lacks novelty in another, more interesting way: it uncannily fits the recurrent French father-daughter theme, now starting to look a little dog-eared. As in some of Brigitte Bardot's 50s films or those in the 80s and 90s with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marie Gillain and indeed Vanessa Paradis, a world-weary middle-aged male enacts the fantasy of saving/loving a delinquent daughter-figure, an erotic rescue fantasy mixed with the Pygmalion myth. "I want to turn you into Cinderella," says Gabor before giving Adèle a make-over in Monte Carlo. Typically, the young woman is motherless while her father is played by a big star - here it's Auteuil, while Gérard Depardieu played Paradis' father in Elisa. Even more strikingly, in Leconte's Une chance sur deux she had two fathers, played by Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Equally characteristic of this father-daughter sub-genre is the way the younger men are ineffectual and quickly marginalised despite their sexual usefulness, while the relationship between ageing male and young woman is sexually sublimated. In this case though, the knife-throwing metaphor turns both farcical and nasty, as Paradis passively waits to be wounded. Just in case we hadn't figured it out, the sexual metaphor is underlined by Paradis noting that it invokes "fear and pleasure at the same time" in her. As in other examples of this genre, misogyny is cleverly occluded by the beauty of the images and the male lead's accomplished acting. We even end up feeling sorry for Gabor when he can't throw his knives any more. Auteuil's ability to evoke winsome vulnerability almost makes us forget the symmetry of his and Adèle's fate is illusory: in their particular game, he risks losing his job but she risks losing her life.


Patrice Leconte
Christian Fechner
Serge Frydman
Director of Photography
Jean Marie Dreujou
Joëlle Hache
Art Director
Ivan Maussion
©Films Christian Fechner/UGCF/France 2 Cinéma
Production Companies
Christian Fechner presents a UGC - Fechner production
A Films Christian Fechner/UGCF/France 2 Cinéma co-production with the participation of sofica Sofinergie 5/Canal +/Centre National de la Cinématographie
Executive Producer
Hervé Truffaut
Greek Production Services
Notos Film Productions
Production Executive:
Dimitra Stamatopoulou
Turkish Production Services
Alfa Film
Production Executive:
Ömer Kavur
Production Manager
Daniel Baschieri
Unit Production Manager
Yorick Kalbache
Unit Managers
Christine Janeau
Jean-Marc Dupuy
Jean-Claude Landon
Post-production Co-ordinator
Catherine Adart
Assistant Director
Grégoire Barachin
Marianne Capian
Emmanuel Roussille
Script Supervisor
Maggie Perlado-Ridao
Underwater Photographer
Roland Savoye
Aerial Photographer
Charlet Recors
Digital Effects
Special Effects
Philippe Hubin
Big Bang
Annie Perier
Tess Hammami
Charlotte Betaillole
Key Make-up
Joël Lavau
Christophe Danchaud
Key Hairdresser
John Nollet
Music Mixer
Didier Lizé
"I'm Sorry" by Brenda Lee; "Sing, Sing, Sing" by Benny Goodman; "Bugle Call Rag" by Benny Goodman; "Quien sera", "Perfume de gardenias", "Malditos celos" by Noro Morales; "Festival in Valencia" by Charles Smitton; "Who Will Take My Dreams Away?" by Marianne Faithfull; "Goodbye" by Benny Goodman; "Swinging Sleigh Bells" by Arnold Loxam; "Romagna mia", "Sangue romagnolo" by Orchestra Secondo Casadei; "Firenze sogna" by Carlo Buti; "Per Domenico Morelli" by Banda Ionico; "Marcia funebre" by Banda Ionico; "Corcal" by Calicanto; "Hicaz oyun havasi" by Istanbul Oriental Ensemble; "Lavrio" by Evangelos Korakakis; "Nova Zagora - Part 2" by l' Artirail; "Tombola Music" by (clarinet) Jean-Claude Forma, (bass) Thierry Bentivoglio, (drums) Olivier Bentivoglio; "Jone" by Banda Ionico; "Fiabe del bosco" by Marcello Colasurdo; "Ghandura" by Kunsertu; "Zurna Improvisation" by Hüseyin Turkmenler, Günay Turkmenler; "Moustahil" by Natasha Atlas; "Sur le pont, impro jazz" by Ronald Alphonse, Olivier Defays, Kelly Keto, Thierry Nago; Mozart & Preradovic's "Land der Berge, Land am Strome - Austrian National Anthem" by Orchestre des Gardiens de la Paix de Par, directed by Claude Pichaureau
Sound Mixer
Dominique Hennequin
Jean-Paul Hurier
Sound Editors
Paul Lainé
Jean Goudier
Dialogue Editor
Fanchon Brulé
Sound Effects
Pascal Chauvin
Michel Filippi
Animal Handlers
Fauna & Films Villemer
Animal Acteurs
Eurl Rex Bormann
Daniel Auteuil
Vanessa Paradis
Claude Aufaure
suicide case
Farouk Bermouga
young man on train
Bertie Cortez
Nicola Donato
Monsieur Loyal
Enzo Etoyko
Italian speaker
Giorgios Gatzios
warm up man
Demetre Georgalas
Catherine Lascault
Didier Lemoine
train conductor
Pierre-François Martin Laval
fireman 1
Stéphane Metzger
Italian boy
Franck Monsigny
hospital intern
Mireille Mossé
Miss Mémory
Boris Napes
Luc Palun
stage manager
Isabelle Petit-Jacques
Jacques Philipson
man in swimming trunks
Frédéric Pflüger
Jean-Paul Rouvray
fireman 2
Philippe Sire
Natascha Solignac
Isabelle Spade
woman at casino
Jacques Vertan
Bruno Villien
Pathé Distribution
8,282 feet
92 minutes 1 second
Dolby Digital/DTS
In Black and White
Anamorphic [Panavision]
French theatrical title
La Fille sur le pont
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011