The second Melbourne film, The Melbourne Rendez-Vous, is directed by French filmmaker René Lucot. It is more cinematic than Olympic Games: 1956, but from the point-of-view of Olympic coverage, it leaves a lot to be desired. During a silly introduction about Melbourne, which he compares to the French city of Tours, the narrator says that because of the Olympics, “Mediterranean fever has seized these Anglo-Saxon people.”
The film also engages in a lot of “soft” sexism and racism. Although Lucot does comment that US shot put champion Parry O’Brien is less attractive than his teammate, Ken Bantum, he saves most of his appearance judgments for women. He even gives us a montage of female athletes disrobing on the infield before competing. An American male athlete is seen flirting with an Italian female athlete. The American is identified as hurdler Glenn Davis; the Italian woman is unnamed.
Non-white athletes are treated like members of an exotic species. Lucot cuts in several sequences about the small team from Liberia, but always showing them lolling about and relaxing, never competing. The narrator posits that the Liberians can always lie about their Olympic feats when they return home. At another point, two ”Singaporean” women are shown taking in the sights of Melbourne. Actually, they are black and obviously not from Singapore.
Lucot also uses a painfully silly technique of cutting to spectators and telling us what they are thinking when, in fact, he has clearly made it up. US sprinting champion Bobby Joe Morrow is shown smiling. Then we see Jesse Owens in the stands smiling and we are told that they are smiling at each other.
There are nice montage sequences of javelin techniques and pole vault techniques. The only sport other than athletics that gets significant coverage is rowing because Lucot seems fascinated by the fact that there are swans in Lake Wendouree, where the events are held.
The film concludes with extended coverage of the marathon, and it is here that Lucot’s cinematic style shines. There is little commentary. Instead there is an excellent jazz score, as the film zeroes in on eventual winner Alain Mimoun of France.
Speaking of Alain Mimoun, the French also produced a charming 22-minute black and white documentary to celebrate his victory. The short intersperses footage from the 1956 marathon with recreations from Mimoun’s life, starting with his childhood in Algeria and his involvement in the Battle of Monte Cassino in January 1944. He was injured in the leg by shrapnel, but recovered the use of his leg, to say the least. In some scenes, Mimoun plays himself, including the emotional moment the day before the marathon when he learns by telegram that his wife has given birth to their first child, a daughter. Not mentioned in the film is that in the two previous Olympics, Mimoun had earned three silver medals, each of them behind Emil Zátopek.