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the Grande Boucle, an elusive subject for the cinema

Building on the success of Drive To Survive, its highly scripted series devoted to Formula 1 for three years, Netflix is ​​coming to the Tour de France this year. A subsidiary of Box To Box Films, the same production company attached to the American video-on-demand platform, began filming by following the preparation of some of the runners, a few months before the start.

In total, eight teams have given their agreement, including two French, as well as the Jumbo-Visma of Belgian Wout van Aert, one of the great animators of the first week. On the other hand, the project came up against the refusal of the UAE Emirates team of Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, winner of the last two editions and big favorite to parade in yellow on the Champs-Élysées on July 24, although the Emirati team has supported “have nothing to hide”.

Eight teams followed by Netflix cameras

Until the end of the race, the cameras will therefore infiltrate the peloton for a broadcast in the first half of 2023 of eight 45-minute episodes, said Netflix, which has partnered for the occasion with France Télévisions, which will broadcast a documentary in a year as the Tour approaches.

After announcing similar projects in the tennis and golf circuits at the start of the year, the American streaming giant – 221 million subscribers worldwide, including 10 million households in France – is seizing the Grande Boucle of one of the most watched sporting events in the world.

Outraged “suffering, self-transcendence and a sense of community”, the series will show “behind the scenes of the teams”, registering « more than ever in our global strategy which aims to make our sport even more accessible and allow it to meet an even wider audience”, expresses in a press release Yann Le Moenner, general manager of Amaury Sport Organisation, the organizing company of the Tour, associated with the operation. This once again confirms the lead taken by the small screen in the race for images of the main bicycle showcase.

The previous Michael Cimino

Because if the cinema does conceal some successes of esteem, none of its attempts on the Tour is really authoritative, giving the curious impression of its inability to take advantage of a competition whose three weeks of adventures seem however cut to blacken the best screenplay pages.

As a specialist in the image of war, Michael Cimino found there “the same faceswith the same haunted gaze, the same intensity, the same emptiness” in these “times when (the runners) lose, where they fall, where they win,” he confided to Cinema notebooks. Present on the Tour in the 1980s, the American director should have brought the long-awaited great film on cycling. The changes of foot of the producers and the vagaries of career of Dustin Hoffman, approached for the main role, will dismiss it finally.

Hollywood did not insist, like a country “less acculturated to cycling than to boxing, which offers human dramas and slices of life from glory to decay that are also very cinegenic”, recalls Thomas Bauer, lecturer at the University of Limoges and specialist in the relationship between sport and cinema.

The studios are also confronted with the strike force of television, “against which they cannot really fight in aestheticization, adds Bruce Bennett, author of the book Cycling and cinema. On the Tour, she offers constantly different shots of the landscape, the public and the sporting gesture specific to the cyclist, filmed on a motorcycle and in a helicopter”.

“Humanizing the cycling effort”

“In a feature film, we tell more about a subject than a sport, also argues this teacher at the University of Lancaster (United Kingdom). But the best cyclists are focused on their discipline, which makes them less good characters. That’s why most movies deal with cycling by comic antiheroes, as in Ghislain Lambert’s Bike with Benoît Poelvoorde, or through more social drama, as in The gang of four de Peter Yates. »

It remains to go beyond the endless race and arrival scenes or the register of the biopic strewn with archive images, such as The Program (2015), devoted to doping organized around Lance Armstrong in the 2000s. “Succeeding in humanizing the cycling effort and showing its beauty, making the heart feel racing under the sun in the mountains, or staging the backstage of the peloton, this is what perhaps remains to be invented”, concludes Thomas Bauer.

——

All runners tested negative for Covid-19

The hasty departures last weekend of the French Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and the Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Emirates), teammate of the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar (all positive for Covid), hinted at complications . But the International Cycling Union announced on Monday July 11 that none of the tests carried out on Sunday evening on the whole peloton had turned out to be positive. On the day of rest observed on Monday, the members of the management of the 22 teams were also to undergo a test. This Tuesday, the peloton will gently attack the second week of the Tour with a 10e short stage (148 km) between Morzine and Megève, designed in the Alps but without a pass, therefore ideal for backpackers.

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