Archive for May 15th, 2013


©2013 James Clark


While working on a probe of Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man, my attention would sometimes drift over to the Steve McQueen film which I had puzzled over for a long time, namely Le Mans (1971). There was about the dignified isolation of the protagonists of both films, as introduced by a brand of cinematography vastly out of step with movie commerce, the oddest and thereby most compelling of kinships. McQueen, sometimes referred to as, “the King of Cool,” was in fact as much an athlete as an entertainer; and, as we know, Rodriguez in his prime did a lot more digging than being digged. McQueen’s sporting efforts were in the area of car and motorcycle racing, a far more spectacular and homage-attracting dynamic than that of cleaning out basements.

That much said, in lining up a case for seeing these disparate figures as teammates, we should draw up logo designs for each, consisting of paths that, in being reverse-images, amount to equivalency. We have, on one hand, a characteristically American embodiment of kinetics in public display, in sharp contrast to the European predilection for letting rip the warp and woof of mobility in private endeavors. (Though operating at the home of renowned motor racing extravaganzas, major European filmmakers—not to be confused with those behind the dreadful soap, A Man and a Woman—had no time for such souped-up events.) While set in Europe, Le Mans, concerning the 24-hour car race in the French town of that name, is a very American film, in its adopting the priorities of its Hollywood star, who was also, with indeterminate input from others, the general producer, director and writer. Thus we have McQueen covered by camerawork at the Le Mans site, heavily immersed in explosive speed, seamlessly dovetailing with actual footage of the 1970 Grand Prix splash, and thereby launching avant-garde proportions and problems under cover of the misleading bluntness of kick-ass prize-winning. Sugar Man, on the other hand, though largely set in America, has been seen (by me) to be a Euro-centric revelation, an avant-garde exposure of fantastic creative intimacy under cover of the misleading overtures involved in recovery of a stolen career. Whereas Le Mans was a commercial disaster, bankrupting its guiding light, and the beginning of the end of McQueen’s shot at bringing to the world something special, Sugar Man was, though also a sort of swansong (for the protagonist), an amazing popular success and the launch of a new auteur of exciting potential. (more…)

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