Sunday, February 1, 2009

North and Sarthe

After watching my boss’ face contort in a variety of amusing ways when I explained I’d never seen ‘the definitive racing movie’ Le Mans, I promptly decided to order a copy. It came through some weeks ago and last night, with my long-suffering girlfriend oop north and a ready supply of beer and pizza on hand, I finally had the ideal opportunity to watch it.

It is indeed an epic experience - providing you’re a petrolhead. Despite Steve McQueen’s brooding presence, the cars are the real stars of the film and it even goes for an impressive 37 minutes before the first line of dialogue is uttered. Some might say it’s a little bit light on plot too. Mercifully, the growing connection between McQueen and the widow of a driver killed in an accident he was involved in is kept brief. Instead it simply follows the race between arch-rivals Porsche and Ferrari.

The footage of Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s battling it out at La Sarthe is breathtaking, and with good reason. Many of the driving sequences were filmed in the real 1970 Le Mans race where the production company entered a Porsche 908 camera car. Persistent rumours claim that, despite the producer’s attempts to stop him, McQueen actually drove during the race.

Either way, it provides a very atmospheric and authentic portrayal of the most evocative motor race on the planet. It’s very much a product of its time, complete with CI5 haircuts and an achingly cool jazz soundtrack, but the action is 100 percent contemporary. Heartily recommended, but definitely one for the hardcore petrolhead.

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