Posted during Cannes Film Festival on 5.17.15: “Gabriel Clarke & John McKenna‘s Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (FilmRise, 11.13) is a fascinating time trip but mostly a sad, bittersweet mood piece about failure and a movie star swallowing his own tail. Clarke and McKenna have certainly made something that’s heads and shoulders above what you usually get from this kind of inside-Hollywood documentary. Heretofore unshared insight, a lamenting tone, an emotional arc. Plus loads of never-seen-before footage (behind-the-camera stuff, unused outtakes) plus first-hand recollections and audio recordings. A trove.
“Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans may seem at first glance like a standard nostalgia piece about the making of McQueen’s 1971 race-car pic, which flopped critically and commercially. (I own the Bluray but I’ve barely watched it — the racing footage is authentic but the movie underwhelms.) Yes, in some ways the doc feels like one of those DVD/Bluray ‘making of’ supplements, but it soon becomes evident that Clarke and McKenna are up to something more ambitious.
“What their film is about, in fact, is the deflating of McQueen the ’60s superstar — about the spiritual drainage caused by the argumentative, chaotic shoot during the summer and early fall of ’70, and by McQueen’s stubborn determination to make a classic race-car movie that didn’t resort to the usual Hollywood tropes, and how this creative tunnel-vision led to the rupturing of relationships both personal (his wife Neile) and professional (McQueen’s producing partner Robert Relyea, director John Sturges), and how McQueen was never quite the same zeitgeist-defining hotshot in its wake.”