Gumball 3000: 6 Days in May Review

Anthony Nield has reviewed the Region 2 release of 6 Days in May, the latest Gumball 3000 documentary but one that is likely to find an audience beyond its core fanbase.

The benchmark for road race documentaries remains Jørgen Leth’s 1976 film A Sunday in Hell which focused on the Paris-Roubaix, a gruelling cycle race which justifies the hell of the title. Shot in a conventional manner complete with voice-over narration, Leth nevertheless captured the true drama of the event in an almost meditative fashion. Almost 30 years later we have 6 Days in May, a 69-minute piece on no less a gruelling race – the 2004 Gumball Rally that crossed three countries and two continents and then went back again – yet this is in no way a similar endeavour.

What made Leth’s film such an enticing work was the fact that it moved beyond being a mere film for aficionados of its sport of choice. It’s questionable as to whether 6 Days in May does likewise as its fetishistic, macho world comes across as extremely enclosed and never once explained to the outsider. Engines are discussed, paintwork is ogled by the cameras and the majority of the audience are none the wiser. Indeed, unlike the previous Gumball documentary, entitled simply Gumball 3000 and narrated by Burt Reynolds, 6 Days in May never received a cinema release and is unlikely to move beyond its target audience unless, perhaps, it is able to secure a television screening.

Certainly, its non-descript visuals seem better suited to the small screen, although the digital footage does have its plus points. Being so lightweight and miniature the cameras are able to get anywhere – and they do, riding along with most of the contenders and even attached to their vehicles in some cases. What this has produced a huge amount of footage thereby allowing us to get closer to the various participants than would have been possible than, say, the time at which Leth was making A Sunday in Hell. However, few of these participants have any form of screen presence or charisma, instead coming across as simply macho and foul mouthed and willing only to discuss pornography and getting chased by the police.

That said, the wealth of footage has been edited down in such a frenetic fashion that 6 Days in May is never boring. Moreover, so much material also can’t help but produce the occasional bit of drama, especially during the last third when the Spanish police decide to crackdown on the “Gumballers” or when Chris Eubank puts in a typically oddball appearance. But then it is also, perhaps, a little too frenetic and as such narrative threads are abandoned and everything is edited into soundbites so as to never give us any hope of attaining any insight. We learn, for example, of various crashes but are only given the most cursory of follow-up information. Indeed, the average viewer is likely to leave the picture knowing as much or as little as they did when they first sat down to watch it, and as such 6 Days in May is never going to move beyond its target audience.

The Disc

Having been shot digitally and on the hoof so to speak, 6 Days in Mays was never going to be the most visually attractive of films. With this in mind the disc looks as good as could be expected; the colours certainly seem strong enough whilst the image has been transferred anamorphically at a ratio of 1.77:1. As for the soundtrack the DD2.0 mix seems a little odd considering the wall-to-wall music which accompanies the inane banter and engine noise and would surely have been better accommodated by a 5.1 option. That said, there is, again, little to complain about as any inadequacies are solely the fault of the original materials and not the disc’s manufacturers.

As for the extras, the rather sizeable amount of options actually adds up to very little. The galleries and trailers are self-explanatory as is the driving montage and the speeded-up option (which is perhaps as ultimately fulfilling as the picture viewed proper). As such the only two items of note are the two interview snippets with, respectively, Gumball creator Maximillion Cooper and actor Adrien Brody. Understandably and six and five minutes apiece neither could be incorporated into the hectic pace of the documentary, but then as stand alone pieces they don’t really add up to much or indeed reveal anything of interest. As with the main feature then the disc is solely for the fans.

Anthony Nield

Updated: May 09, 2005

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