Riding the crest of a wave in 1970 following the successes of The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt, Hollywood heartthrob Steve McQueen was effectively given carte blanche to make his own film about the legendary 24-hour endurance race.
A skilled racing driver himself, the King of Cool was desperate to produce a picture that accurately portrayed the power, speed and energy of Le Mans – in fact, so desperate was he to authentically replicate the race on film that he ignored the need for an engaging script, or any real story at all.
As Clarke’s documentary shows, McQueen also put himself and some of the world’s top racing drivers in serious danger, as he demanded the choreographed race scenes be filmed at actual Le Mans speeds of up to 240mph. The film interweaves talking heads — including recent interviews with McQueen’s family plus the actors, drivers and producers of Le Mans — with fascinating archive footage and voice-over narration, often from the man himself.
From McQueen's hopeful beginnings, writer-director Clarke adeptly reveals how his ego and ambition eventually hamstrung the film’s production – almost to its ruin. McQueen is painted as a flawed visionary, a passionate racer and film-maker who extended immense generosity to those who bought into his ideas. But it is difficult to forgive him for his domineering nature on set, his inability to compromise and his warped loyalties.
Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans provides intermittent thrills for motor racing enthusiasts in its race scenes, the in-car footage particularly effective in portraying the raw power of the vehicles. It also works well as a cautionary tale against working on someone else's passion project. But, unlike Asif Kapadia’s groundbreaking motor racing documentary Senna of 2010, Clarke’s film does little to hold the attention of viewers not already invested its two major subjects, Le Mans or McQueen.
|What||Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Lancaster Gate (underground)|
20 Nov 15 – 01 Jan 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to The Man and Le Mans film site|