It’s a sunny day in Porto when my guide shows off the beautiful and terrifying Maria Pia bridge boasting “it’s a Gustave Eiffel structure”.  Only a few weeks beforehand, I’d been in another of Eiffel’s buildings, the Nyugati station in Budapest.  Both were built ten years before The Tower.

Eiffel is a luscious drama romance.  It’s the story of – no surprises here – the building of the Eiffel Tower.  With a romantic subplot.  Or maybe it’s the story of a romance with a tower-building subplot.  To be honest, the romance part of the biopic doesn’t seem credible, but it’s a movie after all. The film is dense with period costumes, muddy streets, and some pretty impressive beards.

The plot is simple.  Eiffel has just been honoured for his contribution to the Statue of Liberty.  He wants to build metro stations but is pushed to create a structure for the 1889 Paris World Fair.  Much gnashing of teeth and smoking ensue—he’s not sure he’s up for the challenge.  Then, one night, at a dinner party he (re)meets a mysterious woman.  Eyes across the table, some mild taunting about an entry into the World Fair competition, and Eiffel declares he will be bold! Sheets of paper, engineering doodlings and even more smoking.  He submits an entry to the competition—voila his delicate structure wins!  Tower building is not as easy as you think! Mais non. It requires exhaustive research, squillions of francs and the love of a woman.

Eiffel draws you into its drama with its sumptuousness.  Sit back and relax, enjoy the CGI.  The shots from the heights of the tower are thrilling. Almost as thrilling is the eye-candy: Emma Mackey plays Eiffel’s love interest and Romain Duris makes engineers sexy.

If you love a Merchant-Ivory film, then Eiffel will appeal.  It’s a worthy centrepiece of the French Film Festival which has just started in Brisbane.

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