Thursday, March 26, 2009

Le Mans (1971)

Directed by Lee H. Katzin. What is it about auto racing that it seems like only shitty movies can be made about it? Obviously "Days of Thunder" is the Elvis Presley of shitty auto racing movies, but for all of its quality this movie is disappointing. It's like wedding cake -- something a ton of time, thought, effort and money went into but pretty much still sucks.

I can't be troubled to validate this but apparently Steve McQueen hoped to be part of John Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix," which came out five years before this. If he was bummed out at first, once he saw what a colossal, steaming pile of shit "Grand Prix" ended up being, he was probably very happy to step aside and watch James Garner doom his career to television.

But it also motivated him to make an auto racing movie that represents the sport accurately -- too goddamn accurately. This goes way too far in the other direction, with literally no dialogue in the first 35 minutes. It's like a documentary without narration or insight. The only plot is that driver McQueen is distracted by a broken love affair. One could ask whether the race is a metaphor for our pursuit of true love, but really, it's doubtful anyone involved thought that hard.

I suppose this movie deserves credit for being so unique, relaxingly paced and so focused on its subject. But it's hard to recommend a box office flick when its only message seems to be that if you let some chick distract you when you're trying to win a race you won't drive as well as you need to.

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