This documentary is not for everyone. To appreciate its energy you need to love motor racing; the screeching of the tyres the growl of the engine and the heart suspended between victory and possible death 

 

I am a fervent motor-racing fan, anyone who knows me will tell you that I could wax lyrical on the magic of an 8-cylinder howl or in this case a Flat-12 roar coming from the engine compartment of a Porsche 917k run by JW Automotive.

I have read several reviews of Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, a documentary that began its screening run in the United Kingdom on Friday the 20th of November. Having read them I find myself overwhelmed, not just with the documentary but with the reviews themselves. The film critics have given their opinion from a film critic’s perspective and I do not disagree with what they say on most fronts. From what I’ve heard this documentary, like the film on which it is based, wanders and isn’t fully focussed. I am wondering however, if they have actually seen the film, Le Mans?

From what I’ve read it appears they haven’t with Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian saying that Le Mans is ‘still admired in certain quarters for its almost wordless documentary realism’ and adding that ‘this documentary defeats your hopes for fun and interest in exactly the same way as the original film’.

The point about Le Mans is that while, from a filmmaker’s perspective, the lack of plot and dialogue means it lacks depth, the point is that from a motor racing fan’s perspective, this doesn’t matter. I’ve watched the film several times and I can’t get enough of the noises emanating from the Flat-12 in the Porsche 917 driven by Michael Delaney, McQueen’s character, or the V12 scream cascading from the Ferrari 512s driven by Eric Stahle, played by Siegfried Rauch. It is the sensation of the film that makes it a feast of sound waves, a tribute to a glorious era in motorsport.

It may have been panned by film critics but to those who know about motorsport, to those who care and tingle at the sound of a racing engine; the fans, it doesn’t matter that there isn’t any plot. It isn’t about the plot, it’s about the racing because, to quote the man himself, ‘I don’t think there’s any race driver that can tell you why he races, but I think he can show you’.