Four feet, 10,000 tons, 1,001 films: the Eiffel Tower, cinema superstar

(AFP) – This is the long love story of a couple of centenarians, born at the end of the 19th century. The idyll between the Eiffel Tower and the 7th art has never wavered, and the film “Eiffel”, in theaters Wednesday, adds a page.

Between biopic of engineer Gustave Eiffel, played by Romain Duris, and sentimental drama around his impossible love affair with a young girl from a good family (Emma McKay, Franco-British revelation of “Sex Education”), the film follows the construction of the icon of the City of Light, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1889.

“I wanted to offer a great epic show to the public”, explains to AFP the director Martin Bourboulon, who hopes that after the film, the spectators “will never see the tower in the same way again”. A challenge, as the monument has been filmed since its construction.

From Woody Allen to animated films (“Ratatouille”, “The Aristocats”), including a key scene in “Inception” by Christopher Nolan, shot on the Bir-Hakeim Bridge, or the poster for ” Taxi 2 “, it is everywhere in the cinema. And still seduces, as the PNL clip proves, “Au DD”, balanced on the platforms of the top floor (more than 190 million views).

“If there were image rights for the Eiffel Tower, the Paris town hall would be a billionaire”, laughs Michel Gomez, who heads the cinema mission of the capital – in reality, filming the tower is free, only the night lights are protected, he explains.

On his desk, the flood of filming requests including plans for the tower, from the Pont Alexandre-III to the Champ de Mars, never stops. More recently, an Indonesian team, showing the interest of emerging countries.

This passion dates back to the origins of cinema, at the same time as the construction of the monument, traces Stéphanie Salmon, from the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation, which collected objects of yesteryear, including magic lanterns, an object that preceded cinema. , representing the Eiffel Tower.

Symbol of a “modern city”, the monument then had “many lives in the cinema”, she explains to AFP: background of romantic American musicals, but also a filming location for cult scenes , like the climbing above the void by the little boy from “An Indian in the City” …

– “A little laziness” –

At the risk of an overflow? This profusion reflects “a little laziness” of the directors, agrees Philippe Lombard, who has devoted several books to the relationship between the 7th art and the capital, including “Paris, 100 legendary films”.

Among the curiosities he identified, the Eiffel Tower of the “Aristocats” which regularly changes location during the cartoon, that of “The great race around the world” by Blake Edwards (1965) which collapses at the end of the film, or the acrobatic shoot of René Clair’s first film, “Paris qui dort” (1924): the team climbed the tower on foot, due to lack of budget to take the elevator!

“Spectacular”, perfect “for stunts or races”, from James Bond (“Dangerously Yours” with Roger Moore watching a parachute escape from the top) to “Rush Hour 3” with Jackie Chan battling on the joists, romantic and ideal for sung dialogues (“Funny Face – Drôle de Frimousse” with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in the elevator of the tower), the monument charms foreign directors …

It also fascinated the French, like François Truffaut, of whom it was “the favorite monument”, he underlines. The New Wave icon “put the Eiffel Tower everywhere”, from the credits of the “400 blows” to Catherine Deneuve’s office in the “Last Metro”.

Others, on the contrary, like to turn away from it: it sits on the poster for “We know the song”, by Alain Resnais, but without appearing in the film, when the lover of Paris Cédric Klapisch prefers himself. focus on other neighborhoods.

A fondness shared by Jacques Audiard: “Les Olympiades”, which comes out on November 3, wants to magnify a district that has hardly ever been filmed, that of the large groups of the 13th arrondissement. Even if the tower is never far: slicing through the mist, its silhouette can be seen in the distance.