The bet is risky. For generations, Stade Toulousain has had a double face. For its supporters, it is the most beautiful club in the galaxy and the best representative of French rugby. For its detractors, the melon of the reds and blacks has no equal, except that which one finds in crates at the edge of a country road. So with the announcement of a film on the Stade Toulousain, the critics rocketed. The haste of some was confronted with the mockery of others.
The feature film offers 1h47 of determined rugby player ready to “to send off like dogs” (prepare 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 tell the Toulouse double seen from inside the locker room. But beyond the easy jokes (and we promise, we had quite a few in mind), what is the not so small film of the five-time European champions worth? Is the latter simply a huge publicity stunt or does it have a real cinematic interest in being watched?VIDEO. The call of the field, the short film of a young rugby player filmed within CS Clichy
Goodbye red, hello black and white
Facing the first light of the projector, the film already presents an atypical choice of image: black and white. Aesthetics may seem pretentious. Especially since the time when Vincent Cassel had fun making faces in his mirror. But here, it keeps a linear visual identity throughout the film. Despite the recurring changes of spaces and sets, the footage retains a pleasant graphic consistency for the viewer. On the occasion of the film’s release, the director comments on the choice of black and white as well as the Cinemascope format, with a much larger image than normal. Matthieu Vollaire explains:
With Eric Hannezo we opted for black and white for several reasons. For aesthetics first, we found that black and white and its raw, uncompromising, authentic side suited this sport perfectly. Then it’s a question of aesthetics specific to rugby. Rugby is not very present in documentaries and it is a way of creating a visual identity of its own. This sets it apart from what has been done for other sports. Finally, Stade Toulousain is a club apart, it was logical that it had a different film, which stood out from the crowd.
So we have a duo of directors with a concrete message distributed through the form of the film. And that is interesting. (Even if the last sentence swells the pecs’). Special mention for the sharpness of the image and the attention to detail throughout the film. Being able to offer every loophole of Yoann Huget in 8K deserves praise. As for filming a training session among the players without being afraid of eating a Faumuina thrown between the two shoulder blades… We are on a performance that requires 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 habits 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 extradiegetic storytelling style. There is no face cam interview of the players or the staff, nor a suave voice à la Tom Hardy to tell us about the pubalgia of Thomas Ramos. The whole film is carried along by the thread of encounters and speeches by Didier Lacroix, Ugo Mola and his staff.
Some strange twists to this atmosphere are nevertheless observed. The countdown of the months and the announcement of the matches fits perfectly into the logic of the film. But the explanatory cards, which mysteriously disappear after 40 minutes, seem to come out of nowhere. The textual explanations give us the impression of being faced with a cheat sheet offered to a cricket-loving spectator who has chosen the wrong room (which is unlikely to happen). The same is true for the official match commentaries present on the TV broadcast extracts. Unless Clément Poitrenaud has the comments of France 2 in his helmet during the meeting without us knowing it. They partially break the immersion effort installed throughout the film.
Ugo Mola, the movies
But behind all this nitpicking, what is the purpose of the film? We could have expected a series of close-ups and portraits of the various Toulouse superstars, but this is not the case. From this point of view, the film does not give in to simplicity, and that’s good. There is no focus of players and we do not even realize the absence of “Toto” Dupont and others during the period of doubloons. The film also does not present an intimate plan on the tragic end of Yoann Huget’s career. The work seems to become aware of its already very “fan-service” aspect and restricts itself in order to rarely abuse it for a balanced result.Top 14. Stade Toulousain. Ugo Mola extends in Toulouse until 2027!
The only real-false moments of glory for players are their time in the infirmary. A way to refer to the impact of an injury in the workforce. Because yes, the film makes the group and the ©collective values of rugby very sacred. Of course, relying on 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 red and black coach Ugo Mola.
The vast majority of monologues heard come from the mouth of Guy Novès’ successor (who has no film to his credit). It grips the viewer throughout the entire film and is shown as the symbol of the workforce. Moreover, we are regularly given the emotions of the Toulouse manager during the matches and the successes or failures encountered. His pre-match speeches are continually featured. We would perhaps have liked the film to rely more on the possible painful moments linked to the defeats. However, during the filming, the reds and blacks experienced five posters concluded 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 fixtures 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 the life of a group, and often carry valuable lessons. A few moments when “the group lives
good times” are distilled, but the page closes immediately without even giving us a glimpse of the flaws of the future champions.UNUSUAL. A professional team broadcasts a documentary series on its 2021 season
Through its aesthetics and its subject, the film gives real credit to the world of rugby. From training sessions to (a few) filmed evenings, everything is evoked from a dramatic angle. Without becoming a compilation of cooked and difficult awakenings, the film would surely have deserved to be lighter at times. A group is also built by the moments spent outside the club’s infrastructure. In addition, post-match celebrations with friends in the locker room are an integral part of rugby culture. If a few shots show us these moments of life well, the feature film would certainly have gained in immersion by presenting these sequences in a more in-depth, longer and above all more intimate way.
We must not neglect the work of this documentary! The aesthetics are polished, the shape is essentially thought out 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 Toulouse epic in the midst of a teeming and tight-knit mass of players. The Stadium does not put its stars in the spotlight. The film prefers to present the historic Toulouse double of 2021 as an event intimately linked to the values of rugby and its learning.
The target audience seems to be a very particular niche. Not sure that a stranger to the oval ball can grasp all the issues and messages put forward 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 he is sent back, for better or for worse, (too much?) often to the simple sport of friends and villages. For lovers of 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 history of the club.QUIZ. Can you name ALL the players in the Stade Toulousain double in 2020/2021?