All hail and bow be­fore McQueen

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

film al­ready preparing for its own cos­play con­ven­tion, but the strik­ing Jen­nifer Lawrence – Everdeen for­ever – gave it sav­age en­ergy.

As the story has pro­gressed, it has be­came in­creas­ingly bound up with con­vo­luted in­ves­ti­ga­tions of pe­riph­eral pol­i­tics. There may be some­thing here about the sub­ver­sion of the Arab Spring. Lessons can be gleaned con­cern­ing the ir­re­press­ible primeval ag­gres­sion of mankind. None of that com­pen­sates for the fact that the se­ries’ orig­i­nal juices have dried up.

Oh, well. At least we will no longer have to re­mem­ber how to punc­tu­ate The Hunger Games: Mock­ing­jay – Part 2. and tor­sos fash­ioned dur­ing the 20th cen­tury. The dog looks rough-hewn but is any­thing but. Over an un­spec­i­fied du­ra­tion, work­ers painstak­ingly layer goop upon goop.

The as­sid­u­ous process will not hold much ap­peal for those wait­ing im­pa­tiently for an X-wing fighter chase, but as with the goop, there are lay­ers of craft in ev­i­dence.


Di­rected by Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna. Fea­tur­ing Steve McQueen, John Sturges, Chad McQueen, Neile Adams. 12A cert, lim­ited release, 102 min In the open­ing act of this en­joy­able, in­ter­nally con­flicted doc­u­men­tary on a film no­body much cares about, we learn that Steve McQueen once lived in the apart­ment above James Garner. Hav­ing heard that Garner (a nice man by all ac­counts) had beaten him to making a film about car rac­ing – the fit­ful Grand Prix (1966) – McQueen ap­par­ently pulled out lit­tle Steve and uri­nated on Jim’s flower pots. This is one of the more flat­ter­ing sto­ries in The Man & Le Mans.

Fea­tur­ing con­tri­bu­tions from Chad McQueen, Steve’s mid­dle-aged son, Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna’s pic­ture seems to be at­tempt­ing a pos­i­tive, semi-au­tho­rised por­trayal of the man they clum­sily call “the King of Cool”. Un­for­tu­nately the history keeps fight­ing back.

Grandiose flat­u­lence: Steve McQueen

Even­tu­ally re­leased in 1971, Le Mans was a van­ity project whose grandiose flat­u­lence – though re­mark­able enough – failed to sat­isfy the in­se­cu­rity of its ego­tis­ti­cal star and pro­ducer. John Sturges, who di­rected McQueen in The Great Es­cape and The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven, even­tu­ally left, frus­trated at the ac­tor’s in­ter­fer­ence and at the con­spic­u­ous lack of script, to be re­placed by a ge­nial jour­ney­man named Lee H Katzin. In­evitably, The Man & Le Mans ar­gues for Le Mans’s cult sta­tus – as all such doc­u­men­taries must – but the re­sult­ing mess was of in­ter­est only to pre-Clark­so­nian petrol­heads.

The film­mak­ers, who have lim­it­less ac­cess to archive footage, do a good job of sum­mon­ing up the des­per­ate at­mos­phere. Shoot­ing in and around the Le Mans 24-hour race, Katzin and Sturges were pressed into in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous verisimil­i­tude. At least one driver was ap­pallingly in­jured in the process.

Through it all, McQueen cruised im­pe­ri­ously. “He loved cars liquor and women,” some­body says in ap­par­ent awe. True enough. He cheated on his wife re­peat­edly. He de­flected blame for a late-night road traf­fic accident. He weed on Jim Rockford’s petu­nias.

Who are we to judge? His for­mer wife speaks of him with af­fec­tion. Those in­jured most by the Le Mans ex­pe­ri­ence still seem star-struck. His charisma in ear­lier films is be­yond ques­tion. This film doesn’t work as ha­giog­ra­phy, but it con­tains lessons about the blind­ing power of fame.


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