Vive Le Tour (1962)

In another case of what’s old is new again, Vive Le Tour brings up the question of doping. Presently, its Baseball and steroids, that has everyone buzzing, but even back in 1962 when Louis Malle made this brisk little documentary about the Tour de France, the question of athletes altering their performance through drugs was a hot topic.

It’s a small part of a short documentary, but its a painful one to watch. Pushed to the point of breaking, but unable to feel the pain that would tell them to stop, doped up racers merely peter out and crash. All of them that give up or hit the wall use the rather humorous excuse of having eaten some bad fish. Perhaps, the Baseball Players Union should take note.

Of biggest surprise is not that bicycle racers are doping, even in 1962. The sport has been plagued with scandal for decades. No, the big surprise is how much vim and vigor Malle puts into the work. The imagery breezes by in a near blur, zipping past like the cyclists themselves. I’ve never associated Malle’s films with this sort of speed. Of other curious note is the relatively low abundance of diagetic sound. Music and narration fill most of the audio track and the film feels better for it.

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