Vive le tour is a short, energetic and fun documentary, a kind of a visual poem about the greatest cycle race in the world Tour de France. It is director Louis Malle’s affectionate homage to the cycle race one France most treasured institutions – Tour de France. Malle and his camera team capture the ambience of the Tour: the enthusiasm of the crowds of spectators, the beauty of the French countryside setting, and the gruelling ordeal of the participants.
Little is said in Vive le Tour about the nature of the race or the various strategies associated with the peloton and breakaways, etc. In fact, the basic scoring system is not explicated, and famous riders or winners are not identified at all in the film. Instead, Malle concentrates on the gruelling experiences of the cyclists and how it might feel to be one of them in the race.
For instance food and drink, the support of supplies from the backup crew is not sufficient enough so the riders often make quick stops at restaurants and raid food and drink (some alcoholic) to boost their supplies.
And the call of nature, how to go to the toilet? The drivers don’t waste much time on this, some of the cyclists relieves themselves quickly by the roadside; others do it on the run, only slowing down a bit.
In the film, it is stated that “Without the mountains no Tour de France”. Malle’s cameras capture the exertion and pain of the riders as they struggle their way up the hills, sometimes in foggy and rainy conditions. The spectators often take pity on the stragglers in these circumstances and run out to give them extra pushes from behind to help them make it up. This extra support, which is actually illegal, doesn’t affect the race outcome because the fans are only boosting the tail-end racers who have no chance of winning the event.
Last but not least he also focuses the sorry effects of dope-taking.
All in all Vive le tour says almost all there needed to be said about the greatest cycle race in the world.
Director: Louis Malle
Script: Louis Malle
Photo: Ghislain Cloquet, Jacques Ertaud, Louis Malle