Eiffel tower

They tried to make a sexy movie about the Eiffel Tower engineer

Of eiffel (2021), dir. Martin Bourboulon (all images courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment)

The biopic format allows so little spontaneity that the best films of Martin Bourboulon eiffel can do to shake up the genre’s rigid structural demands is simply to fix the life of its subject, the out-of-work engineer Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris). The constant movement back and forth in time offers no compelling contrasts between time periods, but merely confuses an otherwise straightforward narrative. This buries important details – like, for example, the fact that Eiffel didn’t actually design the iconic tower that bears his name, but instead bought it from two other engineers after initially mocking their idea as garish and too modern.

This detail would be a potentially interesting basis for a film that undermines the usual tropes of biopics, revealing the exaggerated case of one man’s mark on the landscape of the City of Light. But rather, eiffel reaffirms all the common touchstones of the genre. There is its depiction of the protagonist as an outsider struggling to achieve a passionate project in the face of many objections from aesthetes, as well as the Catholic Church, which fears that the proposed iron monstrosity will literally dominate the existing classical architecture of Paris and the majesty of Notre Dame. And because behind every great man there is a woman, Eiffel only really decides to build in the first place from some kind of misplaced display of affection towards an old flame, Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey), to make a provocative gesture of self-esteem to his aristocratic family for shunning him.

Of eiffel

Tying a 984-foot-tall vanity project to the romantic foibles of the man who owns the company building it borders on parody, and things only get more absurd when the film bends into other European cinema cliches. . Eiffel, born into a middle-class family, constantly mocks class consciousness and how the tower will be accessible to everything Parisians, rich and poor. Yet despite all the talk, the engineer obviously spends much of his time trying to climb the ladder into the upper crust, largely ignoring the average person in a never-ending attempt to impress his social superiors.

Of eiffel

The usual biopic aesthetic is firmly in place here. The camera moves in majestic, flat motions through sumptuously Baroque interiors in rich wood hues that contrast with the gloom of the industrialized city outside. But the chronological order of the scenes, which teases the “tragedy” of Eiffel and Adrienne’s doomed romance, only prolongs a lackluster love triangle that never builds emotional resonance precisely because of the incessant leaps.

The fact that Eiffel is such a boring, romantic historical character only further depresses the film. This is the story of a man who buys a patent to put his name on the final product, who talks about a grand game of utopianism while increasingly isolating himself among the elites, and whose artistic impulse is inseparable from his penchant for women. eiffel inadvertently portrays its protagonist not as a great man worthy of attention or praise, but as the Elon Musk of his time.

eiffel opens in theaters June 3.