In The Darkrnby George McCartneyrnMaking Choices,rnTaking ChancesrnEer since Blaise Pascal made his wagerrnon the infinite, it seems the PVeneh havernheen gridlockcd at the intersection ofrnchance and choice. In a universe of incalculahlernodds, how should a personrnplace his het? hi his artful — hut neerrnarts—film, The Girl on the Bridge, directorrnPatrice Leconte takes up Pascal’srnchallenge and, without abandoning itsrnmetaplnsics, gives it a decidedly thisworldlyrnturn. The resrdt is an existentialrnromanhc comedy in the Gallic mode. Ifrnthis sounds deep dish, remember thatrndepth makes the souffle rise.rnThe film’s recipe begins with its surrealrnopening scene. Wc meet Adele,rnphued b- Vanessa Paradis, looking asrngra e as slie is lovely. She is being interviewcdrnor, perhaps, deposed by an unseenrnwoman as a gallery of middle-agedrnmen look on. It seems she’s giving a personalrnaccounfing to an anonymous officialdom,rna sort of apologia to the world atrnlarge. Assuming life only begins whenrnyou start making love, she explains thatrnshe left home as soon as she could find arnbo’ to lie with. But things haven’trnworked out as she had supposed. Herrnbo friend didn’t sta’ around ver- long,rnand his successors hae proven equalK’rnlaithless. “I get conned every day of nnrnlife,” Adcle complains bittcrlv. “Handsrnarc trick,” she elaborates. “They canrnmake ou bclicxe anvthing.” Havingrnpassed through so many, she knowsrnthereof she speaks. Her realization,rnho\eer, hasn’t helped her: “Boys attractrnmc like clothes. I alwas want to tn’ themrnon.” Conceding the follv of her promiscuih,rnshe blames herself more than thernperfidious parade of men who have trampledrnon her sexual generosih’. “I am likerna acuum; I pick up all flie dirt around.”rnSo, \ c are not entircK’ surprised w henrnin flie next scene, Adele decides (at thernad’anced age of 21) to throw herself intornthe Seine. As she stands on the bridgernhesitafing. Gabor, a middle-aged carnivalrnknife-thrower, comes along by chance —rnor is it fete? (lliis is Daniel Auteuil pla’-rning with litter conviefion a man who isrnsomehow both heroicallv intense andrnThe Girl on the Bridgern(La Fille sur le pont)rnProduced by Fihns Christian Fechner andrnFrance 2 CinemarnDirected by Patrice LeconternScreenplay by Serge FrydmanrnReleased by Paramount PicturesrnSaving GracernProduced by Homenin Productions andrnPortman Entertainment CrouprnDistributed by Fine Line FeaturesrnDirected by Nigel ColernScreenplay by Mark Crowdyrnand Craig FergusonrnSteal This Movie!rnProduced by Ardent Filmsrnand Greenlight ProductionsrnDirected by Robert CreenwaldrnScreenplay based on books byrnAnita and Abbie HoffmanrnDistributed by Lions Gate Fihns Inc.rncomically distracted, a Pasealian withrnone eve on the moment and the other onrneternih.) “You seem to be about to makerna mistake,” Gabor remarks, seemingU’rnunimpressed bv her desperation. Adelerntries to dismiss his interruption but cannotrnhelp being intrigued by his nonclialance.rnIt’s only when she plunges intornthe water—or does she fall?—that Gaborrndrops his pose and rushes to her rescue.rnOnce he’s fished her out, he makes arnproposifion. He’s looking for a new assistant.rnShe could be the new target in hisrnknife act. After all, given her present staternof mind, she really hasn’t much to lose.rnBesides he has recruited many of his assistantsrnfrom bridges such as this.rn”Burned out women are my specialtw”rnhe explains with a shrug. Needless to say,rnAdele is hooked. She surrenders herselfrnto his hands and finds they’re quite unlikernthose she’s become used to. Ratherrnthan being tricky, they’re deft, assured,rnand, above all, respectful as l:e whisks lierrnfrom dress shop to shoe store to beautyrnparlor, preparing her for her new role.rnThe soundtrack booms with Benn-rnGoodman’s 1938 Garnegie Hall recordingrnof “Sing, Sing, Sing” celebrating thernpure romantic inventiveness of thisrnepisode in which she winsomely collaboratesrnwith his masculine deeisix’cncss.rnAs they proceed to their first engagementrnin Monte Garlo, Gabor informsrnAdele that their relationship will bernchaste: His personal code does not permitrnhim to sleep with his assistants, hikerna doctor, he must not compromise hisrnskill and her safet’. At fliis point, a physicalrnrelationship would affect his judgment.rnNevertheless, the soon achievernan infimaey of another sort. As he explainsrnto her, a knife-thrower cannot succeedrnunless his target inspires him. Adclernis nothing if not inspiring. As she standsrnagainst the corkboard at which he hurlsrnhis knives, she gasps and sighs widi almostrnerotic abandon as each one safelyrnhits its mark just beyond her flesh. Sherncomes through each performance unscathed,rnexcept for flie odd nick that herntenderly bandages. Leeonte’s conceit isrnso bald, it’s astonishing. He merely immasksrnthe sexual metaphor everyonernsenses in knife-throwing acts. This isrncourtship distilled to its essentials: step byrnstep, feminine permission transfiguresrnmasculine desire, which is skillfullv disciplinedrnby respect and affection. Bv today’srnstandards, such traditionalism isrnpositiveh’ daring.rnThe film’s velvet’ black-and-whiternphotography is strikingh appropriate tornthe knife-throwing sequences. They arernshot in tight, alternating close-ups of therncouple’s faces. Paradis’s features are renderedrnin a haz’ luminescence that bringsrnout their soft, rounded vouthfiilncss. Auteuil’srncraggy face is split vertically likernthe half moon, deep shadow on one sidernand blinding light on tire other, emphasizingrnhis hollowed eves, sagging cheeks,rnand beaked nose. Their allegorical rolesrnare literally illuminated: Leconte is meditatingrnon the seeming] irreconcilablernpoles of immature desire and adult restraint.rnWhere she is haplessK headlong,rnhe is honorably headstrong. Their relationshiprnwill be the fulcrum on whichrnthese elemental contradictions citherrnbalance or founder. For, as we discover,rnthey are extremes in need of one anoflier.rnUnlike Adele, Gabor is never temptedrnto drift. His focused existentialism won’trnNOVEMBER 2000/47rnrnrn