Vive le tour (1962)

Vive le tour 
Directed by Louis Malle
Written by Louis Malle
Nouvelles Editions de Films
First viewing/Netflix rental


Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike – Fausto Coppi, when a reporter asked him what it takes to become such a great champion.

I don’t even follow the Tour de France.  I found this documentary short totally charming.

First we meet the crowd.  It seems like the entire population of France is out to view the race.  Malle gives us many great faces from a wide swathe of society.  My favorite was the nun giving a rider the thumbs up.  He goes on to the carnival aspect of the event, complete with floats.

We move on to the riders.  First, we take care of their basic necessities from food to drink to urination.  It is a different time, when riders go into bars to raid them of champagne and beer, often without paying and the crowd offers its own provisions.  We end with the grueling race itself.

A cyclist’s loot.

I was surprised that doping was an issue even in 1962.  Then it appeared to be amphetamines, something the filmmakers inform us does not add strength but dulls pain. Several athletes are shown paying the consequences when they collapse from over-exertion.  And can you imagine a time when the crowd is allowed to physically push cyclists up hill?!

Malle makes every one of the eighteen minutes a delight.  If you have any interest at all in the Tour, I would say this is a must see. The complete film is available on YouTube and on FilmStruck.


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