This lesbian historical murder mystery is everything that you need in your life.
It’s unlike any other. If you’re tired of lesbian couples where both girls look like they just walked out of Abercrombie and Fitch catalogs, and if you’re tired of historical movies that drag, and if you’re tired of lesbian characters meeting tragic ends in nearly every movie or TV show – then Mystère á la Tour Eiffel is the movie for you.
Welcome to Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The 1800s are fading fast, and the Eiffel Tower now stands tall over the city, glittering with majesty – and murder.
When a terrible murder occurs at the Eiffel Tower, the daughter of one of its architects, Louise, (Marie Denarnaud) is framed, and no one seems to believe that she’s innocent. She and her girlfriend, Henriette (Aïssa Maïga) adventure across Paris in order to prove Louise’s innocence.
If a murder and a lesbian relationship aren’t scandalous enough, consider that Louise is a divorced woman, which was incredibly taboo at the time. After the divorce, she moves in with her father until another male suitor can be nudged into marrying her. Louise, of course, has no interest in that, and as soon as she meets the dashingly beautiful Henriette – who is a woman of color – their passions for each other build.
It portrays their relationship in a realistic way; there’s no room to say that they’re just friends, but there’s also no voyeuristic hypersexual scene, like the one from Blue is the Warmest Color that dominated a news cycle.
Despite its bold take on 20th-century feminism and racial equality, this film is far from preachy. Instead, it’s a charming romp that manages to entertain and enthrall without taking itself too seriously.
Mystère even touches on mental illness, as one of the protagonists gets locked up in an asylum, where she and the other women face cruel treatment. The film is notable because the protagonist doesn’t protest that she isn’t mentally ill and that her asylum stay is a mistake – she knows that she is mentally ill, but contrary to popular belief at that time, she insists that her mental illness isn’t her homosexuality.
Although the women at the asylum are mistreated, Mystère portrays zero violence against women. As mentioned earlier, many lesbian films have tragic endings: sometimes the pair gets gruesomely torn apart by society, or one or both characters die or endure sexual assault. But this film has none of that. There’s a happy ending, and no woman has to die.
The film is originally in French, but watch the subtitled version here.
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