Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans – Film Review by Frank L.
Directors: Gabriel Clarke, John McKenna
Stars: Steve McQueen, Chad McQueen, Neile Adams
Steve McQueen was at the height of his powers as an actor following the success of the Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt when he decided to make in collaboration with a Hollywood production company; a movie about the great 24 hour French motor car race “Le Mans”. He had become an obsessive about motor car racing and believed no film had captured the essence of the sport. He was determined to fill the gap.
What lies at the heart of the tale was an early falling out between McQueen and his trusty script writer Alan Trustman (The Thomas Crown Affair,Bullitt) as to whether the film should have the hero winning or losing the race. They could not agree and shooting began without a script! In effect it continued in this unimaginable state until, towards the end of the shoot a script was cobbled together. The documentary tries to unravel what drove McQueen to try to make this “authentic” movie about motor car racing and in particular the essence of what it is to drive one of these super charged machines at life endangering speeds. McQueen seeks to explain, what is probably inexplicable, what demons haunted him but like Icarus he did not realise that the wax in his wings was beginning to melt as he pursued his obsession. This single mindedness however lost him his wife, a long term friendship, his screenwriter and much else.
The documentary reveals how a consuming passion can become destructive for an individual. The original archive footage is fascinating as it shows how McQueen was not prepared to deviate from his goal. However in the recent interview material there is considerable repetition. As a result the film tends to meander into nostalgia and sentimentality. That said this is a must see for motor racing enthusiasts and/or Steve McQueen fans.
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