Daniel Auteuil

The Girl on the Bridge (1999, Patrice Leconte)

I really didn’t think there’d be much to say about Girl on the Bridge. It goes for a mediocre charming and it easily attains it. The opening suggests something a little different–it’s a long scene, which may or may not have edits (but if it does, one isn’t supposed to notice them) with Vanessa Paradis telling her life story to a room full of people. The context is never explained and, immediately following, she ends up on the titular bridge, ready to jump, only to be saved by fellow discontent Daniel Auteuil.

The majority of the film operates under a simple set of agreements. First and foremost, Auteuil is charming. He’s world-weary, he’s old enough to be Paradis’s father, he’s an underdog. Second, Paradis is charming. She’s above reproach, occasionally precious, also an underdog. The film’s constantly reminding how the two are unlucky in everything but each other. It could be the tag line.

Except Girl on the Bridge also operates under the assumption it isn’t going to be a tag line-friendly film. Patrice Leconte’s Panavision composition is fantastic. A lot of the film is impeccably directed, with certain sequences standing out–there’s a beautiful night drive through the Italian countryside–Jean-Marie Dreujou’s black and white cinematography is a perfect example of how that medium allows for a lot more vividness than color ever can. There’s also an eclectic, romantic soundtrack of American standards. The film takes place in scenic European spots. Being American, they seem even more scenic to me, I suppose, but it’s definitely intentioned to have engender some response (a generally lifeless Paris to a fantastic Monte Carlo–I think–followed by Italy, Greece and Turkey).

If that last feature seems out of place–a travelogue in this purportedly avant-garde effort–it should. For all its hubbub, Girl on the Bridge is incredibly standard. Paradis goes from lover to lover, only to discover she’s best with Auteuil–he’s a knife-thrower, she’s his target. Are there a couple metaphor-heavy knife-throwing as sex scenes? Yep. They’re solid filmmaking, but they’re so obvious I’m using a rhetorical question for the first time in a while. They, along with the absurdity of narrative (the film proposes the two characters as damaged leads in a fairy tale), are what keeps Girl on the Bridge down for the majority of the running time. Like I said, a mediocre charming and nothing more. There’s a strange lack of ambition to the film. A false passion.

Until the third act, which is an absolute disaster. It includes scenes of the characters talking to each other across great distances–carrying on real, not imagined conversations–here’s that fairy tale aspect–and some tugging on the melodramatic heartstrings. Without Paradis, the film turns into Auteuil’s plunge into depression. The third act practically opens with a title card announcing it and the end is predictable from that moment.

The film’s got some real potential and there are a lot of good and great things about it, but it fails miserably. It’s actually somewhat embarrassing.



Directed by Patrice Leconte; written by Serge Frydman; director of photography, Jean-Marie Dreujou; edited by Joëlle Hache; production designer, Ivan Maussion; produced by Christian Fechner; released by UGC-Fox Distribution.

Starring Daniel Auteuil (Gabor), Vanessa Paradis (Adèle), Bertie Cortez (Kusak), Giorgios Gatzios (Barker), Demetre Georgalas (Takis), Luc Palun (Stage Manager), Isabelle Petit-Jacques (Bride), Frédéric Pfluger (Contortionist) and Natascha Solignac (Nurse).

36 Quai des Orfèvres (2004, Olivier Marchal)

Quick rule of thumb: do not set the present action of your movie over seven years and then skip six and three-quarters of those years. And I’m being generous with that three months. 36 Quai des Orfèvres is one of two films–it’s either a damn good cop movie (with some bad dialogue) or a piss-poor revenge drama. The director, with a ludicrous dedication at the end–almost as ludicrous as The Towering Inferno‘s dedication to firefighters, goes with the latter and it’s too bad, because there’s a lot of good stuff in here.

First, it’s got Daniel Auteuil, who seems to be in a lot of good films. It’s also got Gerard Depardieu, who’s astoundingly good as the conflicted–yet essentially “good”–cop. Until he becomes the bad guy. Once Depardieu becomes the bad guy, 36 is set down the road to its inevitable mediocrity. Even without the six year break from the story, I don’t think there’s anything they could have done to turn it around.

It’s also different to watch a French cop movie. Watching American movies and TV, you quickly become an authority on the American variation–for a while, in fact, 36 appeared to be a modern (and good) version of L.A. Confidential–so watching a French cop movie is different. The prisons are nicer and the cops tend not to shoot the criminals as often as they do in America. They also don’t beat them and French people make smoking look cool. Auteuil makes smoking look so cool, if I were single, I’d probably start smoking.

Of course, even though the film didn’t get US distribution or even a DVD release, Robert DeNiro is remaking it, directed by Marc Forster (who’s a native of Germany, incidentally) and written by Dean Georgaris (who “wrote” Tomb Raider). I suppose if DeNiro gets a reasonable co-star… No, scratch that. Remakes of foreign films do not fix the problems (Vanilla Sky). All they do is invite disrespect for the original piece. And there’s a lot to respect about 36 Quai des Orfèvres, just not enough to make it good. This film has four screenwriters. Very few films–modern films–are good with four screenwriters. (Very few modern films are good with any screenwriters, I suppose. Bring on the chimps!)

(Another thing about long present action–don’t cast too old: Auteuil’s French. When I see him with the grown-up daughter, who’s aged too much for seven years, I’m thinking it’s his girlfriend, not his kid).



Directed by Olivier Marchal; screenplay by Marchal and Dominique Loiseau, from a story by Marchal, Franck Mancuso and Julien Rappeneau; director of photography, Denis Rouden; edited by Hugues Darmois; music by Erwann Kermorvant and Axelle Renoir; production designer, Ambre Fernandez; produced by Franck Chorot, Cyril Colbeau-Justin and Jean-Baptiste Dupont; released by Gaumont.

Starring Daniel Auteuil (Léo Vrinks), Gérard Depardieu (Denis Klein), André Dussollier (Robert Mancini), Roschdy Zem (Hugo Silien), Valeria Golino (Camille Vrinks), Daniel Duval (Eddy Valence) and Francis Renaud (Titi Brasseur).

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