Eiffel

Director: Martin Bourbulon

Operating time: 108 minutes

I was so happy that the Alliance French Film Festival could finally go ahead this year, after the 2020 festival was cancelled because of you know what. This year’s festival premiere was all about healing and returning to the basics of French cinema. And what does that say about everything there is to know about French cinema outside of the classic romantic melodrama? The Eiffel Tower, as the name suggests, focuses primarily on the construction of the now famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, with a little love and drama thrown in.

The biggest shock of the whole movie for me was not the facts about the building of the Eiffel Tower, but the fact that Emma Mackey (Sex Education) speaks fluent French! I love Emma in Sex Education, and her performance in Eiffel couldn’t be more different. Emma plays Gustave Eiffel’s original love, Adrienne Bourges, a wealthy French woman with father problems, to say the least. Adrienne is a gentle, free-spirited soul burdened by her wealthy upbringing, the exact opposite of her other character, Maeve. Although Adrienne and Gustav are not terrible characters in themselves, the film suffers from the classic melodramatic tension will they, won’t they? Throughout the film there are successive time jumps, starting with the completed Eiffel Tower and going back in time to show a young and idealistic Gustave who has just achieved fame and recognition for building the Statue of Liberty. The use of time jumps made this film interesting, as the romantic plot itself allowed for a slow resolution. The only implausible or disappointing thing about the time jumps is that Mackey seems timeless, which is probably due to her portrayal of a teenage girl in Sex Education, making some of her memories hard to recall. Romain Durie, who plays Gustave, has the wonderful look of a stricken and depressed man in his future renditions, making Mackey’s character stand out even more.

Eiffel will take you to this romantic spot in Paris. Don’t we all dream of walking the cobbled streets with our loved one and enjoying the view from the Eiffel Tower? Eifel takes you right into the romantic interludes between the characters, but suffers from the classic romantic movie trope of a couple who can’t make it work. Personally, I hate watching movies like this because I don’t think love should be so hard, but they do it for what the story is, the story of a man building a huge thing that people didn’t like at first. The sex scenes between Gustave and Adrienne are very French inspired *ehm* with detailed choreography. However, they manage to keep those moments very sweet, and it builds tension for other jumping moments at other times.  Adrienne’s male character was a bit of a cliché as another abusive, possessive man, but I can see why it was necessary to combine a romance and a memoir to build an exciting plot.

Now for the most interesting part: the fascinating technical details of building a tower. As someone who knows very little about engineering or math, I didn’t expect to find the film so interesting, but the film spends a lot of time discussing the mechanics of building a heavy metal tower in swampy France. Of course he built a huge tower to satisfy his penis juice. He would have liked to know more about the variance Gustave had originally received for the Eiffel Tower to see how he handled this conflict as a renowned and talented architect, but alas, it is hardly an inconvenience until the construction site moves. And since the film focuses on the historical and the romantic, it decides to end with a text about the number of visitors the Eiffel Tower receives each year. It wasn’t too scary, but you can see in the text how the tower is shaped like the letter A (Adrienne). While I appreciate that the film brings the two stories together, it is a bit disappointing and unconvincing after I enjoyed the main story.

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