Persistence, pain and the village parade sit solid at the heart of Louis Malle’s 1962 short documentary about the Tour de France. The cyclists pedal as fast as Malle’s camera rolls, and the result is an efficient yet poetic take on the joys and pitfalls of the cyclists and spectator’s view of the race.
We see the villagers (including an array of nuns in different habits) waiting for the cyclists to pass through a French village that looks remarkably similar, from an outsider’s view, to one that exists today. There are squinting faces, funny shaped hats and a parade featuring a huge fabricated giraffe and comic-looking ‘Butagaz’ mobiles.
The cyclists experience difficulties and face their failures. More importantly, they press-on.
Malle commits as much footage to the visual study of the villager’s responses as to the race’s competitors. It’s an egalitarian study and is indicative of a post-war French-ness, one that respects the small and meaningful in the everyday, and backboned the nouvelle vague approach to filmmaking.
Likewise, Vive Le Tour holds a perfect dramatic arc within its mere 18 minutes: set-up, character introduction, challenge, and triumph. Malle further developed this expertise in his longer, fictional films; and alongside the more ‘commercial’ Claude Chabrol was probably the most ‘conventional’ storyteller of his contemporaries.
Director: Louis Malle (1962)