Eiffel: A great popular film [critique]

A flamboyant love story set against the backdrop of the construction of the famous Tower, where the duo Romain Duris- Emma Mackey makes sparks.

We told you in our issue 517 the crazy adventure of this film. An epic of more than 20 years between Hollywood and Paris, before finally seeing the light of day under the leadership of the producer Vanessa Van Zuylen. But if in 24 years, many screenwriters have followed one another and the story has necessarily evolved, its spine, imagined by Caroline Bongrand, has remained intact. A mixture between historical facts as they really took place and the share of invention that cinema allows, without betraying history.

We are at the end of the 1880s. Gustave Eiffel was then at the height of his career and the French government offered him to create a spectacular monument for the Universal Exhibition of 1889. But, to everyone’s surprise, he suddenly declined. another obsession: his metro project for the capital. Except that this refusal will see itself beaten in breach the day he crosses paths by chance with his love of youth from which he had been brutally estranged. Eiffel will therefore indeed embark on this crazy project of a Tower of unprecedented height without the reason for this change having so far been clearly documented, leaving all the room for fiction to unfold.

Eiffel returns to a full-fledged genre of French cinema, reduced to the bare minimum for more than 25 years. The historical film in popular costume. A cinema that is expensive – which cools the enthusiasm of investors – and which, poorly controlled, can give rise to bombastic works where the concern for a perfect reconstruction crushes everything else. Eiffel escapes this pitfall or, more precisely, is built against it. What he proposes is not to tell the story of the construction of the Eiffel Tower but to make this epic the driving force behind what constitutes the heart of his story. A flamboyant love story. A love story apparently impossible because of social class difference but which will push both of its protagonists to ceaselessly push back obstacles. The romantic is at the helm of this Eiffel, the liveliness, the refusal to be crushed by the period film side too. Behind the camera, Martin Bourboulon (Mom or dad) acquires a new dimension here. Never stifled by the pressure that such a budget puts on your shoulders, its staging alternates between peaceful fields and flickering moments camera on the shoulder to tell this Eiffel, sometimes KO standing as during the impromptu reunion with Adrienne or when he can win her back from the one who has become her companion, and sometimes overwhelmed when precisely passion gives her wings. Bourboulon does not film an era but characters who transcend this era and whose modernity is reflected in his work on costumes and his direction of actors.

In the main roles, Romain Duris and Emma Mackey make sparks. Their alchemy sets the tone for the story. The first is as convincing in the intimate scenes as in the moments when as a leader, he must harangue his men who think the project of this Tower doomed to failure. The second, for its first major role in the cinema, seems to have escaped from a novel by Jane Austen. And beyond her stunning charisma, she carries everything in her path with her energy, her emotional subtlety and her appetite to play with others. Because Eiffel is also a film of actors where, with the exception of Pierre Delandonchamps (perfect rival of Eiffel, refusing to throw in the towel), the supporting roles (excellent Alexandre Steiger, Armande Boulanger, Andranic Manet …) do not lead – as often in this type of film – to a parade of well-known and too recognizable faces. The proof that this Eiffel believes first and foremost in the power of the story it tells and the way it is told. A successful bet.

From Martin Bourboulon. With Romain Duris, Emma Mackey, Pierre Delandonchamps… Duration 1h48. Release October 13, 2021

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