Le Mans Film Review

Le Mans.
Runtime 104 minutes.

As with most films featuring car racing as their central subject, Le Mans wasn`t a commercial success despite its leading actor being probably the coolest man ever to walk on this planet; the late, great Steve McQueen.

To be brutally honest, most car racing films of the twentieth century are pretty rubbish, with weak plots and an inevitable ‘love interest’ that adds nothing to the story for the, usually, male dominated audience for such a subject. In fact, it`s only relatively recently that films featuring car racing have been a box office success, and they have focused on illegal road racing with highly modified production cars, and the love interest being provided by some, er, very fit girls, whose choice of clothing apparently requires rather less fabric than most of my ties.

However, older movies are now gaining renewed attention due to the passage of time and the featured cars now being immensely significant in the rarefied world of historic racing cars, with commensurate values that usually exceed the phone number of the vendor should one come onto the market. Which is where ‘Le Mans’ must surely hold the attention of any classic car enthusiast; who could resist an hour and three quarters of Porsche 917`s going head-to-head with Ferrari 512 LM`s whilst mixing it with Le Mans Matras, Lola GT 70`s, sundry 911`s, Corvettes etc?

Le Mans
Le Mans remains just as popular today (Picture: Chris Dymock)

Admittedly the plot`s a bit basic – American racing driver has a near fatal accident the previous year in which his rival is killed, meets said rival`s widow on his return to the current event, races a 917 for hour after hour in appalling conditions, chats to aforementioned rival`s widow in the driver`s restaurant between stints, has inevitable accident, gets to take over a fellow team driver`s car and battles it out with his latest Ferrari driving arch rival to finish second to secure a Porsche 1, 2 result and exchanges meaningful looks with previous rivals widow in a sort of metaphorical ‘walking off into the sunset’ ending.

Hardly earth shattering stuff, but the real attention holder is the stunning cinematography that beautifully captures the era and the raft of classic racing cars, not to mention the noise they make. Oh the noise, it`s worth owning the film for that alone: none of your modern diesel-hybrid nonsense here. Additionally, as the film was made in 1971 and features actual footage from the 1970 event, the pit stops, marshalling and medical facilities now seem incredibly dated and are enough to make anybody who has watched any race event in the past couple of decades wince with the almost amateurish approach being portrayed.

Steve McQueen did all his own driving in the film and the list of other drivers in the credits reads like a ‘Who`s Who’ of the contemporary racing fraternity. Bombed in its day; now a gift to classic car petrolheads. Thank you, Steve McQueen.

Le Mans

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