Steve McQueen - The Man and Le Mans: NZFF Review
Pulling together previously unheard interviews and calling on an apparent 1 million feet of footage shot for the Le Mans film, Steve McQueen - The Man and Le Mans is a look at one man's unswerving dedication (and perhaps hubris) to get a film made.
Back in the 60s, Steve McQueen was at the height of his career; but while he lived the Hollywood life, he really had only one true obsession - racing and the speed associated with it.
Setting up his own production company, McQueen's first project after the likes of Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair was a film based on the thrill of the motor-racing; he wanted to capture the excitement of Le Mans 24 hour race and incorporate it into the big screen. And because he had the power and relative clout to get it going, he did - even though no script was anywhere to be seen.
Admittedly this was a common practice in the 60s and 70s, and McQueen set about shooting as much footage of the cars as they waited for the script. And they waited, and waited...
Steve McQueen - The Man and Le Mans is a funereal piece in many ways, but also a fascinating examination of a passion project and the follies that come with it.
Using a wealth of footage (well, there was a million feet of it), a ragtag ensemble of talking heads, including Steve's son Chad and various drivers on the flick, and some ponderous staging shots, a lot of which are purely served up for art's sake, it's an intriguing almost clinical look at how a failed project had to come together regardless.
Mournful and melancholy in tone, it really could have done with a bit of an edit and a tightening up of its almost sedentary pace. Despite it being about racing cars, and there being plenty of footage thereof, it's not a film about cars or the speed of the pace or frenzy of making a Hollywood machine to a deadline. Wisely using some smart talking heads with long shots of them staring into the camera builds up an atmosphere of menace and uncertainty for those unfamiliar with the critical reception of Le Mans and the ultimate fate of McQueen after this driving passion project.
Directors Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna may have given us an insight into the troubled production but the film needs an expeditious edit in places to get it into pole position. But if anything, the film gives us more of an insight into the King of Cool, and how his steely nerve was shattered by the project of Le Mans, the fight between directors and lack of script and Charles Manson rearing his head in the piece.
Ultimately, Steve McQueen - The Man and Le Mans is a studious and fascinating film, one that will reward race fans and McQueen buffs in extremis but also one that could have done with a trim and some areas expanding.