The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - EIFFEL | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - EIFFEL

eiffel review
While working on his famous tower, Gustave Eiffel contends with the return of a past lover.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Martin Bourboulon

Starring: Romain Duris, Emma Mackey, Pierre Deladonchamps, Armande Boulanger, Bruno Raffaelli

eiffel poster

Francis Lee's Ammonite received much criticism for taking an important historical figure, the 19th century English paleontologist Mary Anning, and brushing her achievements off the table to make way for a steamy lesbian romance. There's no historical evidence of Anning ever being romantically involved with a woman, or a man for that matter, but Lee decided her professional achievements weren't interesting enough. With Eiffel, director Martin Bourboulon and writer Caroline Bongrand similarly relegate the achievements of the engineer who gave his name to arguably Europe's most famous structure to a subplot in a fictional romance.

eiffel review

Played here in flattering fashion by the handsome Romain Duris, Gustave Eiffel is portrayed as a high-spirited, dashingly romantic figure. Having received acclaim for designing the innards of the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel sets his sights on building a structure in the heart of Paris that, as one politician puts it, will serve as "France's revenge on history." Getting permission and funding requires a lot of hobnobbing and ass-kissing of the sort of wealthy capitalists this man of the people version of Eiffel detests. At one such dinner he is shocked by the arrival of Adrienne (Emma Mackey), the woman he was set to marry 20 years earlier before she ran away. Adrienne is now married to another man but seems keen to rekindle her relationship with Gustave, who is wary of having his heart broken once again.

As a closing caption points out, the Eiffel Tower is built in the shape of the letter "A", so the filmmakers have decided it must surely have been inspired by a woman. Gustave Eiffel was actually married for 15 years to Marie Gaudelet, who died at the tender age of 32. If the movie had to focus on Eiffel's love life, why not centre it on the romance we know he was actually involved in? I guess because to do so would make for a "boring" story, unlike the melodramatic tale of star-crossed lovers we get here.

eiffel review

Much of the film consists of flashbacks to Gustave and Adrienne's courtship, which even rips off Vertigo at one point by having Adrienne jump into the Seine in the hopes that Gustave will rescue her and thus prove his love. She earlier watched him similarly rescue a drowning worker who fell from a bridge he was constructing, so I'm not sure if saving Adrienne would really prove any romantic interest. Of course, Adrienne is a hotty, and so Gustave begins pursuing her from the moment he sets his eyes on her. Duris's Eiffel is also a bit of alright, and so the feeling is mutual. There's an unintentional comedy to how the pair eyeball each other over dinner, as though they're about to brush aside the plates of asparagus and get down to it among the silverware.

Mackey follows the likes of fellow English actresses Jane Birkin, Charlotte Rampling, Jacqueline Bissett, Kristen Scott Thomas, Stacy Martin and Gemma Arterton in trying her hand in French cinema, and to my uncultured ears she pulls off the part with aplomb. It's not exactly the most complex of roles, as she's largely required to simply look pretty in a stretched corset and make googly eyes at the titular engineer.

eiffel review

If you're expecting a history lesson, you'll be sorely disappointed. We learn practically nothing about Eiffel's construction, which is mostly glimpsed as a few girders tended to by the sort of noble workers you might have found in a Soviet propaganda film. The movie portrays Eiffel as a pseudo socialist who battles with the rich and wants his creation to be "for all of France," but this is contradicted by a scene in which he pleads with his workers to do two months' work in two weeks, leaping about the scaffolding like a chimp in the trees to prove they aren't in any danger (to its credit, not a single worker was killed during the tower's construction). Just who was the real Gustave Eiffel? You'll have to look elsewhere to find the answer to that question.

 is in UK/ROI cinemas from August 12th.

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