Film lovers start your engines, Ben Pinsent reviews Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, an epic documentary about the actor and the classic race film.
Cars are great, I like the fact that we no longer have to spend a week walking to London and can drive there in a day. Having said that I am not a “petrol head”, I get confused when people start talking about torque. Is it torque? I feel like torque is involved in cars somewhere and more torque is good. Motor racing has me similarly confused; people I know are obsessed with these races, but I cannot see the appeal of watching bits of metal and rubber whizz over a track. I do, however, like race movies, Rush, The Cannonball Run and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines are great stories. I hear that the granddad of them all is 1971 film, Le Mans, starring the King of Cool himself, Steve McQueen. I haven’t seen that film, but I have seen the documentary about the production of the movie that is being released on Blu-Ray DVD and On-Demand services soon. So, the issue becomes is the documentary any good, and does it make me want to see Le Mans?
There is no real plot to summarise in this film; it is a documentary about the making of the film Le Mans, a filmic behemoth, and the man who brought that film to life, non-other than Steve McQueen.
Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans had me at hello. As a film nerd, I love Making-of documentaries; I am ashamed to admit this, but I have seen the making of The Lord of the Rings on the extended edition DVDs more than I have seen TLOTR film. As part of this I also like film history, and the documentary has copious details surrounding the state of Hollywood at the time. Finally, I have a passion for classic or cult Hollywood films and Steve McQueen, the iconic star of Bullet and The Great Escape, has a foot in each of these genres. This documentary has two interesting subjects, an iconic movie legend and the film that almost brought him low. With a combination like that, how could it fail?
For me, a documentary must have two things, more than its subject, in order to be successful; it must be well plotted and it must have interesting interviewees. Thankfully, for the most part, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans has both. Every one of Le Mans’ contributors has an interesting story or unique perspective of the film or Steve McQueen himself, from his son and ex-wife, to an Assistant Director and the professional drivers that the movie employed to shoot the extra scenes. The fascinating stories that these entertaining people share are interwoven well with great use of stock footage, talking head shots and actuality. Steve McQueen has a great sense of drama as well, with the highs and lows carefully revealed for greater emotional impact. All in all, it is a well-crafted documentary.
The film does tend to become a little repetitive, especially when it comes McQueen, but there are so many other layers that this repetition feels more like a personal niggle. In short, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, is gripping, even for a non-petrol head like me. It covers so many ideas and themes that I adored learning about.
Noah Media Group, the people who have distributed Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, have done a solid job in crafting a working product. There are no digital visual or audio errors and even the stock film footage looks great. The menus are set up well with an easy to navigate style.
The bonus features on the disc are a little tricky as I would not have technically counted them as individual extras, rather I would have probably put them all under the one category: deleted scenes. All these extra stories and interviews do add to the film, and some I do wonder why some ever got cut from the feature. But there is just one type of extra and that is just more of the main film.
Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans is a fascinating piece about a part of an iconic movie star that many people may not know about. It also charts the making of a film that was legendary in terms of the amount of footage shot and the number of on-set problems it had. The film charts all these stories that would have made individual movies in themselves well to leave audiences with a satisfying peek into the making of a land mark movie. The number of extras leaves me a little hesitant to recommend the film to general audiences, though if you are a fan of racing and Le Mans it is a perfect companion piece for a classic piece of cinema history.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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