Girl on the Bridge

Friday, October 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Talk about erotic! Girl on the Bridge brings more heat to the screen than Backdraft. Yet the French film's sexiest scenes take place with homme and femme at a distance from each other.

No dishabille, no Kama Sutra. Just interesting actors, directed by old hand Patrice Leconte, charging the air between them in gorgeous black and white.

Of course, these aren't the usual partners with office jobs whom we see agonizing about their love life on nightly TV series.

In the romantic road comedy with overtones of La Strada, Daniel Auteuil is Gabor, a fading circus knife-thrower with telepathic gifts. Pop singer turned actress Vanessa Paradis is Adele, his willing, promiscuous target.

Mr. Auteuil makes a watchable Pygmalion, and Ms. Paradis, with her silent-movie-star face, is, as the director says, "the North Star" ­ and we're the needle. No wonder Johnny Depp was drawn to such gap-toothed charm.

They meet on a bridge where the suicidal gamin wavers above the dark water. Since women with nothing to live for make good targets for his flying shivs, Gabor hangs around the bridge

Desperate and luckless, Adele is like flypaper, she says: "I pick up all the crud." Gabor insists she's too young to have known real tragedy. Unconvinced, she slips into the Seine, and Gabor follows to save her.

He then convinces her that their meeting has changed her luck, and she joins his traveling act. But the first time he hurls knives at her body, she's hidden by a sheet. It's an orgasmic moment, vibrating with tension and telepathy.

In another scene, reminiscent of Pretty Woman, he takes his new partner shopping, turning the frail sparrow into a frisky Cinderella with a pixie cut.

While not sexual partners, they develop a bond of trust. She becomes his muse as well as bull's eye, and in a metaphor for making love, they rehearse in an abandoned warehouse.

Yet Adele can't resist sex with a stranger, even a circus contortionist, proving that Mr. Leconte, once the leading comedy director in France, is still wonderfully wry.

Despite their mystical connection, muse and mentor part company and lose their mutual luck. And it's here that the moody magic departs for a whiff of Good Old Hollywood.

Yes, after all the great, swinging camera work, exotic locations and eclectic score ­ from Benny Goodman to the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble ­ it's a disappointing, cheesy denouement and ending.