EIFFEL – Review by Martha K Baker

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You have to see Eiffel to decide if the film is corny fiction or a romantic narrative feature. Watching it is not difficult, given the seductive scenes of heaving bosoms and rising monuments. It’s just that “Eiffel” can be seen as a partial biography of a great engineer or as gooey romance made up to fill out a science story.

Gustave Eiffel was a French civil engineer, who was born in 1832 and died in 1923. In between, he built bridges and viaducts for the French railway. To support his work, he developed a company for metalwork that employed compressed-air caissons to build those bridges. He also famously engineered the ingenious skeleton that stands the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

Fast on Liberty’s heels, the French government inveighed Eiffel to design a little something for the 1889 Exposition Universelle marking the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.

The film Eiffel concentrates on the competition, design, and production of that signature tower, which earned Eiffel the title “magician of iron.” But to augment the science of the story, writer Caroline Bongrand’s screenplay adds a woman, who may or may not be pertinent. Her name is Adrienne, and she is part of Gustave’s past. From the minute he sees her, he is seduced again by her beauty, yet repelled by their history of love, marriages, and children.

Luminous sightings of Adrienne weave in and out of Martin Bourboulon’s direction. The reminiscent scenes haunt as the camera focuses on her chest. But those cameras also delineate the building of the tower, which assumes the shape of an A, as in Adrienne. Get it?

Romain Duris plays Eiffel with handsome intensity, making the engineer seethe as he dances even. Emma Mackey, most recently seen in Sex Education, engages well as Adrienne as she plays to the camera, her bosom buddy. These actors bring the romance. Getting shorter shrift are politics and the engineering surrounding the 300′ tower — constructing on spongey soil, considering wind resistance. Alexandre Desplat’s turbulent music swirls around the production, which is very dark.

Eiffel has its moments, but it also has its duplicity. And its boo-boos: when Gustave and Adrienne kiss on the first floor of the tower under construction, the sun is setting to the right when it should be in the southwest. So, talk amongst yourselves about Eiffel.

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Martha K. Baker (Archived Contributor)

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.