The Car in Motion: Racing Films, Part II – Le Mans (1971)

January 28, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

Steve McQueen may be the only international star whose covered face can sell a movie. Note: slinky babe does not exist whatsoever in finished film.

There are really only a handful of great car racing films, and by great I mean those not involving CGI effects, but motion pictures that celebrate the racing car in motion at its top speeds in its natural environments.

Grand Prix [M] (1966) is the greatest – nothing equals its coverage, scope, and innovative cinematography – but perhaps the antithesis of a racing melodrama with documentary collages and background material is Le Mans (1971), perhaps the second best racing film ever.

I reviewed the film several year ago when Paramount released it on a gorgeous yet bare bones DVD, and while the 2011 Blu-ray is a must-have, it’s still not the special edition fans have wanted. Paramount makes great transfers, but they’ve stepped away from special editions, as many major labels have, although perhaps what’s needed is more interest from McQueen’s estate.

At Le Mans, cars and drivers move for 24 straight until a winner is crowned. Rain, sunlight, daytime, nighttime. It’s an ideal series of conditions and challenges for any filmmaker, and in spite of Le Mans’ “chaotic” production, the proof of its quality lies in the footage and the brilliance of the editors who shaped the film. One senses that like director Lee H. Katzin, the editors and cinematographers recognized Le Mans was a chance to break from the doldrums of predictable TV shows and TV movies and make a feature-length film shot in 2.35:1 widescreen. Collectively, they did superb jobs, and yet perhaps because of a lack of interest or maybe more stable work on the small 1.33:1 screen, most returned to TV.

Le Mans [M] features some truly inventive editing, sound design, and a  minimalist script that actually works, and the newly rewritten review covers some of the reasons this film remains a remarkable work. Pity there’s no film print in circulation for theatrical showings, but the Blu-ray is really a stunner.

Also, added to Mobile is a Le Mans [M] soundtrack review.

Coming next: Richard Burton follows fifties casting conventions and treats us to a white Welsh dude playing a brown South Asian dude in Fox’ early CinemaScope extravaganza The Rains of Ranchipur (1955), released  on Blu-ray by Twilight Time, and featuring an isolated score by Hugo Friedhofer.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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