Unexpectedly fascinating — 5 years ago
Three films, all very good in their own way
First, an entertaining look at the 1962 Tour de France. The focus is on the fans, bystanders, and “stragglers” who refuse to give up until they collapse by the side of the road. It’s not about winning, in fact you don’t even learn who won. It’s about the racing and the anonymous people who love it. Amazing to watch the guys on the motorcycles who follow the riders, their passengers taking pictures, eating, even sleeping.
Second, a very quiet, somber presentation of assembly line workers at a Citroen factory in 1973. Many of the workers know they are being filmed, but almost none of them smile or show any interest. They look fairly glum. The camera follows their repetitious movements, creating a kind of poetry of man and machine. After nearly an hour you start to feel this is a horrendous way to earn a living. There is a brief middle section that takes place at an auto show, and we get to see and hear customers interacting with salesmen. Of course, the cars we were just watching get assembled are there on the showroom floor. You get the feeling that the people assembling the cars are very different from the people buying the cars. Without any voice-over narration, you are left to your own interpretation.
And the third film is both funny and sad, as Malle and his crew of eight buzz about a busy street in a working-class Paris neighborhood and ask people what they are doing and if they are happy with their lives and many of them answer in what seems to be quite open ways. Many are not from Paris, some are immigrants, almost none of them have jobs—either they’re pensioners or on disability. Most seem to be just passing the time out amongst the people. It’s a fascinating glimpse of the time and place in which it was filmed.