“Love strikes at random.” “We’re all at risk.”
Written by Serge Frydman, directed by Patrice Leconte, La fille sur le pont opens as, questioned by a gentle offscreen voice, 21-year-old Adèle, passive, defeated, confesses her sexual history, relating these to her hopes and fears. Unlucky, she sees no future for herself. This grim, somewhat sensationalized conversion of the interview of a more spirited Antoine Doinel in Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) leads to Adèle’s suicide jump into the Seine. Adèle is rescued (à la Hitchcock’s Vertigo, 1958) by Gabor, a knife-thrower who recruits her for his act, as he has her predecessors, from the downtrodden and disenchanted. They hit La strada (Fellini, 1954), visiting Monaco and Athens.
Gabor convincingly assures Adèle he never has sex with his “assistants.” However, Gabor, acting initially as her protector/monitor as she attempts to undo her sexual addiction, eventually falls in love with her. Our initial view of Adèle suggests she is a drab, uninviting creature; but her increasing beauty, assisted by a new hairdo (that reminds us of Jean Seberg in Godard’s A bout de souffle, 1959) and, subsequently, a sparkling theatrical headdress, provides an index of the shifting nature of Gabor’s lonely heart. Adèle undoes even her own upturned luck when she sails off with a wedding-groom whose bride, jilted on her wedding-night, becomes Gabor’s new assistant. (But not for long.)
Leconte’s black-and-white film grows increasingly tedious. It comes to unpleasant life only during the heart-jolting knife-throwing scenes, which are edited (along with Adèle’s panting) to simulate sex between them. (It’s a bit much when Gabor closes his eyes before hurling his knife.)
Daniel Auteuil (best actor César) gives a performance so subtle I must have missed it. Vanessa Paradis, Johnny Depp’s longtime partner, plays Adèle.