The bet is risky. For generations, the Toulouse Stadium it has a double face. For its fans, it is the most beautiful club in the galaxy and the best representative of French rugby. For its detractors, the red and black melon has no equal, except for the one found in boxes on the edge of a rural road. Then, with the announcement of a film at the Stade Toulousain, the reviews skyrocketed. The haste of some faced the mockery of others.
The feature film offers 1h47 of a determined rugby player ready to “to send like dogs” (get ready to hear this phrase every five minutes). All proposed by the production of Éric Hannezo and Matthieu Vollaire who followed the team for 7 months, from December 2020 to June 2021. They count the double of Toulouse seen from inside the locker room. But beyond the easy jokes (and we promise, we had quite a few in mind), what is the five-time European champion’s not-so-little movie worth? Is this last one just a big publicity stunt or does it have any real cinematic interest in being seen?VIDEO. The call of the field, the short film of a young rugby player shot inside the CS Clichy
Goodbye red, hello black and white
In front of the first light of the projector, the film already presents an atypical choice of image: black and white. The aesthetic may seem pretentious. Especially since the time when Vincent Cassel amused himself by making funny faces in his mirror. But here, he maintains a linear visual identity throughout the film. Despite the recurrent changes of spaces and sets, the footage retains a pleasant graphic consistency for the viewer. On the occasion of the premiere of the film, the director comments on the choice of black and white as well as the Cinemascope format, with an image much larger than normal. Matthieu Vollaire explains:
With Eric Hannezo we opted for black and white for several reasons. First for the aesthetics, we discovered that black and white and its authentic, raw and uncompromising side were perfectly suited to this sport. So it is a question of aesthetics typical of rugby. Rugby is not very present in documentaries and it is a way of creating its own visual identity. This sets it apart from what has been done for other sports. Finally, the Stade Toulousain is a club apart, it was logical that it had a different film, one that would stand out from the crowd.
So we have a directorial duo with a concrete message delivered through the form of the film. And that’s interesting. (Although the last sentence swells the pectorals). Special mention for the sharpness of the image and the attention to detail throughout the film. Being able to offer each bond of Yoann Huget in 8K deserves praise. As for filming a training session between the players without fear of eating a Faumuina thrown between the two shoulder blades… This is a performance that deserves an Oscar without delay.Two All Blacks legends will be entitled to a film about their careers [Vidéo]
A captivating atmosphere, but partially controlled
The film breaks with many customs of sports documentaries. In recent years, Drive to Survive or other All or Nothing have flooded our screens. However, Le Stade moves away from these blockbusters, with a simple narrative tool: the very absence of a narrator. It may sound silly, but the film offers (almost) no non-diegetic narrative style. There’s no face-to-face camera interview of players or staff, no soft Tom Hardy voice to tell us about the pubalgia of Thomas Ramos. The entire film unfolds through the thread of meetings and speeches by Didier Lacroix, Ugo Mola and his team.
However, some strange twists are observed in this atmosphere. The countdown of the months and the announcement of the matches fit perfectly into the logic of the film. But the explanatory cards, which mysteriously disappear after 40 minutes, seem to appear out of nowhere. The textual explanations give us the impression of a cheat sheet being offered to a cricketing spectator who has chosen the wrong room (which is unlikely to happen). The same happens with the official comments of the parties present in the extracts of the television broadcasts. Unless Clement Poitrenaud have the comments of France 2 on his helmet during the match without anyone knowing. They partially break the immersion stress installed throughout the film.
Ugo Mola, the movies
But behind all this nitpicking, what is the purpose of the film? We might have expected a series of close-ups and portraits of Toulouse’s various superstars, but this is not the case. From this point of view, the film does not yield to simplicity, and that is good. There is no player focus and we don’t even notice the absence of “Toto” Dupont and others during the doubloon period. The film also does not present an intimate plan about the tragic end of Yoann Huget’s career. The work seems to become aware of its already very “fan-service” aspect and restrains itself to rarely abuse it for a balanced result.Top 14. Toulouse Stadium. Ugo Mola continues in Toulouse until 2027!
The only true or false moments of glory for players are their time in the infirmary. A way of referring to the impact of an injury on the workforce. Because yes, the film makes the group and the collective values of rugby very sacred. Of course, trusting the collective without humanizing the story would quickly become as boring as an episode of CSI. To avoid this, the footage sends a lot of energy and messages through the red and black technician Ugo Mola.
The vast majority of the monologues heard come from the mouth of the successor of Guy Novès (who has no film to his name). He catches the viewer throughout the entire film and is shown as the symbol of labor. In addition, they regularly give us the emotions of the Toulouse coach during the matches and the successes or failures encountered. His pre-match speeches are continually featured. Perhaps we would have liked the film to lean more on the possible painful moments linked to defeats. However, during the filming, the red and blacks experienced five closed cartels against them. A streak of three losses in four Top 14 games also existed at the end of the season without being mentioned, with European matches taking precedence in the film. Why not give more space to moments of doubt, to failures, which represent so many challenges and opportunities for progress for professional athletes? They are an integral part of group life and often carry valuable lessons. A few moments when “the group lives
well timesthey are distilled, but the page closes immediately without even giving us a glimpse of the failures of future champions.WEIRD. A professional team broadcasts a documentary series about its 2021 season
Through its aesthetic and its theme, the film gives real credence to the world of rugby. From training sessions to (some) filmed evenings, everything is evoked from a dramatic angle. Without becoming a compilation of cooked and difficult awakenings, the film surely would have deserved to be lighter at times. A pool is also built for moments spent outside of the club’s infrastructure. Additionally, post-match celebrations with friends in the dressing room are an integral part of rugby culture. If a few shots show us these moments of life well, surely the feature film would have gained in immersion by presenting these sequences in a deeper, longer and, above all, more intimate way.
We must not neglect the work of this documentary! The aesthetic is polished, the shape is essentially intended to convey a message about the identity of the club and high-level rugby. This work is accompanied by a narrative rhythm that allows the viewer to follow the epic of Toulouse in the midst of a teeming and cohesive mass of actors. The Stadium does not put its stars in the spotlight. The film prefers to present the historic Toulouse double in 2021 as an event closely linked to the values of rugby and its learning.
The target audience seems to be a very particular niche. I’m not sure that a stranger to the oval ball can grasp all the themes and messages presented for more than 100 minutes. Rugby fans will be delighted to be able to enjoy an original cinematographic object that evokes their favorite sport with respect and consideration. A bit of fresh air in a world where it is often sent back, for better or worse (too much?), to the simple sport of friends and peoples. For fans of the Stade Toulousain, who will certainly not miss the event, it will obviously be an opportunity to relive with emotion one of the most beautiful moments in the club’s history.PROOF. Can you name ALL the players from the Stade Toulousain double in 2020/2021?