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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Steve McQueen Drives Ahead Of His Time


Le Mans (1971) Finishes High Among Race Pics

I found this much better than its rep would suggest. Critics complained there was no story, many bored with so much race stuff. Well, you do need threshold interest in fast cars to enjoy Le Mans, speed being Steve McQueen's obsession and his entire reason to produce and star in the film. That it broke his Solar unit (which had made enormous hit Bullitt) and ended up not earning him a dime was only part of damage Le Mans did to McQueen. This was his show and he'd see it done his way, at end (or middle) of which money partners took reins away from Solar and raced shooting to a finish, cost a much more than planned ten million. John Sturges was hired to direct, being a friend and once-mentor to McQueen, but he'd bug the star to beef narrative, add dialogue, make Le Mans more conventional. To Steve's credit, he held story and dialogue, especially his own, to bare minimum. You'd think for a first twenty minutes that Le Mans was a silent movie beyond roar of engines.


As semi-doc, Le Mans works great. You're pretty there in terms of locale and intimacy of pits, their crews, and inside broilers that was racing machinery. Crashes are horrific, any of them sure to kill an occupant, but amazingly, nobody died during production, although one driver lost a leg (his "sacrifice" noted in closing credits). Le Mans was actually ahead of its time for austere guidance by McQueen. We don't need to hear him talk this time. His action carries the day, which was this actor's preference in any case. Steve was always for trimming lines; you could put total of his Le Mans dialogue in a one-to-two minute bag. Cast membership beyond is for most part pro drivers brought aboard to assure authenticity. They do that in spades, a big and further plus to Le Mans. The movie ended up in profit, but McQueen got a black eye among money men who'd not turn him so loose on a project again. Besides that, he was sick of Solar and drain it imposed on personal finances. From now on, the star would take his considerable money and run.

1 Comments:

Blogger KING OF JAZZ said...

Today the movie would probably be rated PG-13 for "Intense car action."

3:26 PM  

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