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Posts Tagged ‘Gustave Eiffel’

Emma Mackey, Romain Duris

“EIFFEL” My rating: B- (In theaters)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Is “Eiffel” an historic epic posing as a romantic soap opera? Or the other way around?

In the end it may not matter. This French entry about the building of the Eiffel Tower mixes equal parts engineering/historic geekiness with a bittersweet love yarn that may be largely fictional…and the results are imminently watchable.

Martin Bourboulon’s film (the screenplay is by Caroline Bongrand, Thomas Bidegain and Natalie Carter) begins in New York City where French engineer Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) is being feted for his part in erecting the Statue of Liberty. Eiffel did not design the statue, but the steel framework he created for its interior ensures that the great lady will survive centuries of wind and water.

Back in Paris the architect becomes involved in a competition to create a visual landmark for the upcoming International Exposition of 1889. Other teams have proposed towers, but Eiffel deems all their designs “ugly.” He envisions something graceful and sweeping, a skyward soaring monument that appears to defy gravity.

Basically what we have here are two movies. In one the engineer struggles to bring his creation into being.

There are scenes set in the sweaty caissons sunk into the sloppy banks of the Seine which allow workers to prepare the ground in pressurized underwater chambers. There are labor issues. There are a host of design challenges. We see the tower at various stages…one assumes it’s all done with CG but it looks pretty dang convincing.

And then there’s the love story. One of the government officials overseeing the project is Eiffel’s old college buddy Antoine de Rustic (Pierre Deladonchamps); the widowed Eiffel (he has four children) gets the shock of his life when he meets Antoine’s beautiful wife Adrienne (Emma Mackey)…she is none other than the great love of his early years.

A fair chunk of “Eiffel” is devoted to a flashback set 20 years earlier when Eiffel, just starting his career, designed a provincial bridge and fell hard for the spoiled daughter (Mackey, mais oui) of a local bourgeoise. Their secret affair uncovered, the lovers were torn apart. Feeling betrayed, Eiffel got on with his life and career.

But seeing Adrienne again gets those juices flowing and the two once again become lovers, though fate is no kinder the second time around.

Aside from what he accomplished, Gustave Eiffel does not appear to have been a terrifically interesting personality; good thing, then, that Duris oozes quiet charisma. Newcomer Mackey, on the other hand, radiates a the sort of beauty and appeal one associates with Italian actresses like Claudia Cardinale or maybe even Gina Lollobrigida.

But the real star of the show, it’s safe to say, is cinematographer Matias Bouchard, whose images of a bygone era are picture postcard perfect.

| Robert W. Butler

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