FILM #19: The Melbourne Rendez-vous (1957) May 16, 2018 11:21:36 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on May 16, 2018 11:21:36 GMT -5
The Melbourne Rendez-vous (1957)
Directed by: René Lucot
Directed by: René Lucot
Film #19/53; part of the Criterion Collection's "100 Years of Olympic Film" box-set
The sameness of the Olympic documentaries from the 1930's to the 1950's is abundantly clear, so much so that René Lucot's observant approach to The Melbourne Rendez-vous seems quietly bold. On top of looking at the games — such as discus, track and field, and boxing — with an inquisitive perspective, with the French narrator expressing what he doesn't know as well as what he does know, Lucot's documentary sees the value in showing the audience, officials, and groundskeepers that serve as the lifeblood in the Olympics.
The narrator points out that there's a subtle quirkiness in Melbourne, which he calls the world's youngest city, hosting the oldest celebration the world's ever known. This comes during several aerial and long-shots that show the intensity of the city; the sharp corners of its streets appear sharper than those in time square and the bustle of the city is well-communicated by the crowded streets and sidewalks. Melbourne is shown as a locale with striking commerce and provincial status, not to mention one bearing the cleanest suburbs and most immaculately curated lawns.
When Lucot does take the time to cover some of the games, the manner in which he does is as distinctive as Leni Riefenstahl's was in Olympia. He loves the physiques of the athletes, but admires the suspense and intensity that comes during the long and high jumps (which concludes in a thrilling way, I must add). Focal points of the games are, for the most part, the runners, particularly Emil Zátopek, as he was in Olympic Games, 1956, Alain Mimoun (who gets his own documentary showcase from Michel Gast), and Bobby Morrow. Morrow's remarkable victor in the 100 m is broken down with examination given to the way he runs.
I find myself recalling instances of this lovely film that, while gratuitous, shine a light on aspects previously unseen. Consider the admittedly needless yet charming beats Lucot uses to look at Melbourne's kangaroo population. "It's too bad they couldn't compete," the narrator referencing the recently concluded high jump, "they're quite remarkable jumpers." The scene speaks for itself in its purpose of humanizing the surrounding city and culture as does its invitation of humor into a rather serious affair. Later on, the narrator takes a backseat for an upwards of five minutes, letting the beauty of the colored field and polyrhythmic jazz orchestration breathe over the ultimate endurance test and cornerstone of the games - the marathon. What unfolds is another memorable bit enhanced greatly by the aesthetics brought into the foreground.
But Lucot's film understands the empathetic, human aspect behind the games is what's almost as interesting as the games themselves. Given his approach and the aforementioned Mimoun short, it seems as if filmmakers of the time came to discover one of the new manners in which to profile the Olympics isn't by way of a comprehensive overview but instead finding the personalized elements of the ambiance and athletes and capturing it in the moment. Lucot and his team don't mind the diversions; it lets the narrator draw on something during the competition. It also leads to layered moments of drama, such as when the camera lingers on an Indian sprinter collapsing just 10 meters into the 100 m run. Lucot doesn't stick to showing the act, but also briefly follows the aftermath when officials themselves run onto the track and bring her to safety. 'Oh, to get that poor woman's perspective on the games' is a thought I'm sure Lucot had at the time.
Directed by: René Lucot.