Cannes 2022: Lola Quivoron’s ‘Rodeo’ is an Impressive Feature Debut
by Alex Billington
May 20, 2022
Every year there are a handful of top notch films that premiere at major film festivals that are so impressive it’s hard to believe they’re the first feature film made by the filmmakers behind them. Earlier this year it was Fresh slicing it up at Sundance, directed by Mimi Cave; and last year it was The Lost Daughter, directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal (she even won the DGA Award for Best First Feature). Watch these films and they seem to be made by exceptionally talented directors with years of experience directing many other films, as they know how to craft scenes and hone the narrative at the same level as the best filmmakers out there. At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Rodeo is one of the most impressive feature debuts – joining these others as a stand out film that feels like it was made by someone who has made plenty of films before. In reality, this really is French filmmaker Lola Quivoron’s feature directorial debut – and it’s a gripping & exhilarating film.
I want to call Rodeo this year’s Titane, but I won’t go that far, and I don’t want to associate these two films – each one is great for its own reasons. Directed by Lola Quivoron, and written by Antonia Buresi with Lola Quivoron, Rodeo is about a young woman named Julia – a tough-as-nails, badass, curly hair fighter who is obsessed with motorcycles. It’s another of these modern portraits of impoverished youth, following them as the protagonists as they deal with the bullshit and manipulations of the small-scale, penniless worlds they find themselves in. Rodeo is about this young woman, who is pretty much “one of the boys”, fighting back and not letting them mess with her. She’s a thief, but it’s because there is no other way for her to live than to steal what she wants. She falls in with a motorbike gang on the outskirts of Bordeaux and has to prove her worth and her value to the rest of the boys – most of whom don’t want to ever give her an ounce of respect.
This is the kind of rad, gritty, won’t-take-any-shit cinema that I love to discover. It’s not perfect, but it’s the kind of film that deserves to be a hit – stylish and badass and bold and captivating. The lead actress in this, a newcomer named Julie Ledru, is so completely believable playing a gnarly tough girl who rides and steals bikes. She has to be this good and this believable for the film to work – the “tough girl” facade is easy to see through and only works if the actress is genuinely like this in real life, too. It’s really not that easy to pull off this kind of story and make it this cool and make it this badass. The very same people that it’s about, the motorbike gangs and riders from cities around the world, need to watch and believe in the film, too. That can only come from an authentic place and in this case, it feels like Quivoron captured that vibe perfectly. She made this to feel authentic, but she also made this to be an entertaining film to watch on the big screen.
Along with a killer soundtrack with some groovy songs that give a few scenes an even more badass feel, this has some slick cinematography. It’s captured by DP Raphaël Vandenbussche who certainly knows how to shoot energetic on-the-road scenes – whether at night or day. Not every shot is great, there’s too many jittery close-ups when they’re not riding the bikes or getting into trouble; but so many of the other shots of them rolling out or riding around together are awesome. It’s one of those films that you will want to tell your friends about right away, so they can watch it and become obsessed with it, too. A French thriller mixed with a heist film mixed with some figuring-yourself-out drama. It’s also a calling card for Lola Quivoron, proving she not only knows how to tell a good story, but can direct a feisty, riveting film with some fantastic driving scenes. It may not be the most original creation, but it definitely is an enthralling, impressive ride to take.