Film review: Eiffel is a great love story

A “freely inspired” story mixes romanticism and engineering in 19th century Paris

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eiffela love story awkwardly tied to a feat of metallurgical engineering, was originally called Eiffel in love. Until (I presume) someone realizes that either way you read it out loud – French or English pronunciation – it turns into the most outrageous pun imaginable. And this movie is bad enough.

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Billed as “loosely based on a true story”, eiffel imagine that the man who designed one of the modern wonders of the world did it out of adoration for a woman. Freudian chuckles aside, it even suggests he embedded his monogram into his superstructure, which I suppose we can be thankful that his name is Adrienne and not, say, Vivienne.

The film takes place in two stages. In the mid-1880s, successful civil engineer Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) is competing to build something for the 1889 World’s Fair. His initial proposal is for a metro system – this would come a decade later – but when the wife of one of his benefactors smiles at the idea of ​​a tower, he is all for it. Its employees have already sketched out a pylon 200 meters high. . He impulsively declares that it will be 300. With a restaurant.

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The woman who inspires him is Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey), wife of Antoine de Restac (Pierre Deladonchamps). Director Martin Bourboulon reveals that she and Eiffel met some 20 years earlier, while he was building a bridge near the family home. The young couple fell in love but were forbidden to marry. Eiffel then married Marie Gaudelet, who gave birth to five children but died in 1877. Historians say Bourgès and Eiffel never saw each other again, but screenwriter Caroline Bongrand begs to disagree.

It’s hard to say which half of the movie is the dumbest. At the beginning of the 1860s, Adrienne is a stubborn young woman who scandalizes her family by wearing trousers, and makes a pass at Gustave by throwing herself into the river, which forces him to rescue her, to get rid of her wet clothes. , warming her up with her own body, and you can guess the rest.

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During the construction of the tower, meanwhile, there are a lot of stock scenes you’ve seen in better movies. There is an editorial montage. There is the passage where a frustrated Gustave smashes his little model of the tower. There is his catchy speech to his workers, convincing them not to strike. There’s the sequence they said I was crazy, where locals protest the horror, while artists decry its ugliness and the Pope fears it will eclipse nearby Notre Dame. (While we’re making things up, what I wouldn’t give for him to say, “It can burn for whatever I want!”)

There is even a passage in which Antoine, suspecting that Gustave has designs on his wife, tells the other man to get out of his prototype automobile and then drives off, perhaps the first dust eater ever. accomplished with a motor vehicle.

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Ironically, the film comes into its own in historical re-enactments of design and construction. We see Gustave giving potential backers a show of the strength of the future tower by zapping a scale model with electricity and pounding it with hurricane-force rain. Another scene sees him visiting the Infernal Underground Caisson, where air pressure was used to keep the subterranean waters at bay until the foundation could be completed.

Ultimately, Bourboulon’s film serves neither the engineering marvel that is the Eiffel Tower nor the people involved in its creation. The director is currently working on a pair of Three Musketeers movies. I can’t wait to see what revisionist fun he has with this already heavily fictionalized tale.

Eiffel opens on April 29 in theaters.

2 out of 5 stars

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