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Impressions de France (1982)
The most successful travel programs are those which inspire the audience actually to visit the locations filmed. This (welcome) sit-down presentation at Disney World, housed in a replica of the Versailles theater, did the trick for me. Over the years, I've tried to visit as many of the shooting locations as possible.
There is minimal offscreen narration, in French-accented English, with a continuous music track of 19th century French chestnuts linked together by Disney's music man, the late Buddy Baker.
This is a half-circle film, extending beyond peripheral vision but not behind. Disney had pioneered the nine-camera Circle Vision process for a Disneyland ride in the late 50s and eventually rang several changes on the original.
American Journeys (1984)
For Disneyland, when it was new, Imagineers created a film projected on nine screens completely surrounding the audience. I saw this original version in 1970 and can still remember a firetruck ride through the nighttime streets of Los Angeles, the cameras riding atop the vehicle.
In 1973, the original Circle-Vision presentation was replaced by "Magic Carpet Round the World", a slightly less interesting travelogue of foreign lands. The camera crew hid behind the protective burladero in Madrid's Las Ventas bullring during a corrida. Outraged members of the audience threw coins at them.
Just in time for the 1984 Olympics, which I attended, Disneyland premiered a third generation of Circle Vision, "American Journeys". Fellow standees included Thai boxers, if memory serves. (The film also was shown at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida). This cross-country travel film included an outrigger ride off Waikiki, a buggy ride through a covered bridge during fall foliage, a tailhook landing on a carrier deck, an on-the-field look at baseball in Dodger Stadium and many other clever slices of American life. Someone came up with a memorable score, blended with (I think) Peter Coyote's spare narration.
Circle Vision has the limitation that one must stand throughout. If sore feet allow, it works beautifully.
Universe of Energy (1982)
Emile Radok, the distinguished Czech director/cinematographer who inspired much of the experimental filmwork at Expo 67 in Montreal, was commissioned by the Disney people to make, of all things, a pre-show waiting area presentation for one of its theme park rides. Like cooking at the airport, this isn't the fulfillment of lifelong ambitions, but Radok made it work splendidly. (As did the chefs who each earned a Michelin star for their restaurants at Charles de Gaulle and Orly).
Radok's specialty is split screen work. Here, presentday cityscapes and historical re-creations are flashed onto a series of screens which actually move, kaleidoscope fashion, creating split images out of one single projection. This lively visual and mechanical spectacle far outshines the "Universe of Energy" ride-thru to come.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Cold War Relic
This film played for a year in Tampa. (Remember ads reading "held over"?) It was made near the height of the Cold War, from a novel written by one of that war's heroes, Soviet dissident Boris Pasternak. "Dr. Zhivago" provided lessons in Russian history in the guise of soapy drama.
Owing to obvious East-West tensions, director David Lean could not film the Russian Revolution on Russian snows. (Others did so, and whatever happened to those films?) Southern Alberta and (oddly) urban Spain stand in for several parts of the Union. One can't see the Lake Louise train station without thinking of this film.
Presumably few Russian actors were available to Hollywood in the '60s, but the largely British cast is convincing as participants on both sides of those ten days that shook the world. The cheap and easy take on anything Russian is to claim that the real star is Russia, its winter weather and its sheer vastness. Denied access to the genuine soil, the filmmakers here manage to pay tribute to that land now freed, post-1991, from the Red serfdom depicted in "Dr. Zhivago".
Wonders of China (1982)
One sign that Chairman Mao truly was dead came in 1982, when the People's Republic allowed the Disney people to open an exhibit on China at their Florida park. Didn't Mao criticize Walt and refuse to allow his films to be shown? "Wonders of China" was originally filmed in 1981-82 and has since had several subtle updates. The original included a segment on the disputed Chinese Tibetan possession. This was scissored out years later. Now a newer version includes Hong Hong, which was still British when the film was first made.
This well-scored travelogue stars the late Keye Luke as Li Bai/Li Po, T'ang dynasty poet, who serves as tour guide. There are interesting glimpses of the Beijing Opera, the giant Buddha along the Yangtze and the ice sculpture park in arctic Harbin.
China has changed dramatically, and for the better, since the Great Helmsman's death. The fact that this film was made and is shown daily to tourist audiences is proof of that.
O Canada! (1982)
North Country Fair
There has been plentiful negative comment north of the border about Disney's ersatz Canada at EPCOT Center's World Showcase in Florida. The consensus is that it reinforces the country's "hoser image". An exception to this is "O Canada", yet another variation on Disney's familiar Circle Vision screen experience.
"O Canada" is a cross country ride from the giant tides of Fundy Bay in the Maritimes to the Banff Springs Hotel west of Calgary. The storyline is neatly divided between English and French Canada, with narrators specific to each staying out of one another's way. Uniquely, the film's theme song contains stanzas in both languages.
Someone wrote some interesting organ music for a procession up the center aisle at Montreal's Catholic cathedral. Sound designers cleverly captured the sounds of skating and slapshooting during an outdoor hockey game. About all that's missing is a curling bonspiel.
Like most of Disney's mini-films, this one probably will need an update in the near future.
Magic Journeys (1982)
"Magic Journeys" was the first of several films shown in the "Magic Eye Theater" at Disney World. All have employed a 3-D process, with the audience wearing the same glasses audiences wore at theaters in the 50s.
Some 3D films are filled with what Kermit the frog (in his own mini-film) called "cheap 3D tricks". This one had a trombone slide protrude into the audience, but little else to scare or confuse the kiddies.
"Magic Journeys" involved a group of children attending a circus and playing outdoors, including a horseback ride on a beach in the Cayman Islands. There was no narration and only a small quantity of dialogue for the performers to speak. The Sherman brothers, who took home an Oscar for "Mary Poppins" wrote the theme song and created a synthesized underscore.
Lost in Space (1998)
Lost In Translation
Originally, like all of Irwin Allen's Sixties TV sci-fi operas, "The Space Family Robinson" took itself too seriously. (Disney, rights holder to "Swiss Family Robinson", forced a last-minute title change). The first episode actually broadcast, "The Reluctant Stowaway", was barely-plausible drama and featured a purely-evil Dr. Zachary Smith.
Allen slowly converted his clunky space operetta into a comedy of errors, highlighting Jonathan Harris's comic side as a more buffoonish Smith. It worked, despite the howls of critics. For the big-screen tribute to this vanished Sixties world, director and screenwriter unwisely copy the original idea.
The updated script rings acceptable changes on the premise of sending a single family to colonize space. One wouldn't expect a slavish copy of the pilot's scenario. Drama over comedy, however, doesn't cut it. Gary Oldman, chilling as Ludwig van Beethoven, seems straight out of an Up All Night horror flick as Dr. Smith. The character could have been nicknamed Igor instead of Zack.
I don't hold opinions about child actors. As the parents, William Hurt and Mimi Rogers are interesting substitutes for Zorro and Mrs. Lassie. Hard to beat the sheer Mom-ness of June Lockhart, though.
I suppose it is enough that someone wanted to spend millions of dollars remembering one of one's TV favorites from childhood.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Exercise in Nostalgia
They've remade a film you remember fondly. OK, let's go back and take another look at the original. Set the wayback machine for the Tet Offensive and dial up "The Thomas Crown Affair".
Did anyone notice how they did the bank robbery? According to legend, the film company installed hidden cameras in a real bank and had cast members interact with customers during normal working hours. The bank's employees were in on the gag, but not these folks you see lining up to cash checks. When they act scared, they really are. If anyone tried that today, they'd buy a lawsuit for invasion of privacy.
Steve McQueen is said to be a minimalist actor, standing about looking cool and occasionally mumbling a few sentences of dialogue. In reality, he sold this performance hard, given how different Boston socialite Tommy Crown was from himself. The actor put in a number of 80-hour weeks learning polo, often ending the day with hands bloodied from holding a mallet too long.
The young Faye Dunaway, fresh off her "Bonnie and Clyde" breakthrough, matched McQueen for poise and cool, scene after scene. This was crucial to the seduction, as they had to be emotional equals for Crown to place any value on the conquest.
Thirty-seven years later and I still haven't found any evidence of windmills in this film, but we'll chalk up the musical score as an elegant period piece, well worth its Oscar. The imitation Expo-67/Emile Radok split screens were a breakthrough at the time and are seldom used to this extent today. Only in hand-held camera movement has this film been significantly copied.
Somewhere, Steve McQueen is still smiling that faint Porfirio Rubirosa smile of his.
Not A Chick Flick
How to choose a film for date night? From the safety of my marriage, let me advise you single gents: Don't take her to see "Sideways". Go with your compadres, who won't be repelled by the two magnetic poles of Miles and Jack.
I hesitate to use the hackneyed old term "buddy picture", but that is what "Sideways" boils down to. Most men can be reduced, if need be, to the simple categories exemplified by Thomas "Wings" Church and Paul "My Daddy Was Baseball Commissioner" Giamatti. In the extreme forms on display here, both may be repellent to women -- off the screen -- but the two can understand each other.
OK, I'm a wine enthusiast. Not a snob, mind you, though no one admits to being one of these. At least I can understand Miles's obsession, if not his romantic hesitations. And, oh, by the way, what he says about wine is completely accurate, if completely ridiculous.
I would say there is room for a sequel here.
One Day in September (1999)
Judging from previously posted reviews, "One Day in September" obviously is being seen by many people who cannot remember September 5, 1972. Those who can will appreciate the musical score, which might have been in the heads of those (English speakers) present that day. Also, anyone of any age above toddler 33 years ago will understand that the director of this film harks back to a day when Israel gained unquestioning support in the West.
It has been my privilege to speak to a number of (mostly) American athletes who were in Munich that day. The stories they tell go beyond even the bizarre and amazing revelations presented as fact in "One Day in September". Others have traveled down this path before, in print, on TV and in the official film of the XX Olympiad, the interesting but very uneven "Visions of Eight". The whole truth is too complex to be told. Surprised? By 1999, both Alexander Scourby and David Perry were gone. The filmmakers settle for Hollywood heavyweight Michael Douglas as offscreen narrator. James Earl Jones might have been a better choice, but the dialogue track is so poorly written that no voice, no matter how dramatic, could have saved it.
Surely there were better choices for the Feature Documentary Oscar that year?
An English Fantasy
Over the decades, the British have been reduced to fantasizing about one of their own winning the Gentlemen's Singles at Wimbledon, which remains one of the great annual British occasions despite its domination by foreigners. (Not to disparage Lloyds of London investor Virginia Wade and others who've won the Ladies in recent decades).
Filmed at Wimbledon 2003, mostly on the "jinxed" Court Two, "Wimbledon" features a likable British player slightly past his sell-by date. Others from other countries are younger, stronger, hunkier, more popular, etc. The British love of the underdog is on display in this film as it is at the for-real Wimbledon tournament. (Not just Brits, too-- they cheered on no-hoper foreigners from Old Drob to Ivanisevic).
"Wimbledon" seems pitched to the American television viewer, as tennis fans in most other countries aren't likely to have gotten used to Chris Evert, Mary Carillo and John McEnroe as the sport's essential voices. In this film, though, lead actor Paul Bettany furnishes a more useful voice, off-screening his thoughts from start to finish. Few scripts now call for so much narration, but it works here.
White Rock (1977)
When the Olympics Happened at the Movies
Once upon a time, pre-satellite if not pre-TV, most sports fans went to the cinema to get a glimpse of the Olympic Games. Local Organizing Committees hired a director from their country to cobble together a feature documentary, in addition to which the likes of Bud Greenspan produced newsreel footage.
Roone Arledge and his ABC-TV unit began to force changes to this routine in the 1960s. By the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics, the five-ring film was on its last legs. Arledge's same-day satellite transmission of Franz Klammer's spectacular downhill ski victory far outstripped Joe Jay Jalbert et al's coverage of the same event in "White Rock", the official film of this Austrian fortnight.
A team of directors, producers, camera and sound people with many shared experiences of Olympics past contributed to the content of "White Rock". Jalbert did ski-camera duty on "Downhill Racer". Mike Samuelson filmed many Olympics. Arthur Wooster the same, plus "Magical Mystery Tour". Herb Lightman of "American Cinematographer" once again filmed and then wrote about it. This was practically the last time such a fraternity had occasion to assemble.
The Olympics are surely not an exercise in nostalgia, but that is an inescapable conclusion about "White Rock".
Downhill Racer (1969)
Skiing Into Your Living Room
The appeal of a ski film to those who ski is obvious. But imagine yourself innocent of skiing. Can it hold the attention of the rest of us? Roone Arledge and his "Wide World of Sports" provided one answer, as Jean Claude Killy and his successors skied into American living rooms on many winter Saturdays. "Downhill Racer" seconds the motion.
The late Mike Ritchie, who'd essayed nothing more ambitious than commercials, traveled the World Cup circuit in the 1967-68 winter, accompanied by Aspen novelist Jim Salter, whose screenplay (from Oakley Hall's very different novel) effectively was written in segments the night before each shoot. Almost everything about this production was improvised.
Athletes are not necessarily interesting people. Killy was; stories about him, some even true, are legion. David Chappellet (a young Robert Redford), more typically, reminds one of the astronauts in "2001", with their limited range of expressions and nothing particularly interesting to say. This comes across powerfully in several hilarious interview scenes, with American and European journalists trying in vain to get the young man to say something worth writing down.
Wengen, Switzerland passes for several World Cup race sites. (A Swiss medico wears an armband identifying him as "Arzt", or doctor, at a supposed French venue). The filmmakers also were present in Grenoble for the Winter Olympics, providing a fictional inside look at the Games far different from that of, for example, "Chariots of Fire".
One still doesn't ski, but the pleasures of "Downhill Racer" are undeniable.
Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
Before there was television, before there were ice revues in 20,000 seat arenas, there was Hollywood. A figure skater wanting to translate her amateur sporting achievements into professional entertainment had an obvious choice. There was vaudeville and 'tank ice' -tiny stage rinks- but the mass audience was elsewhere.
Sonja Henie in the 1930s was the first Olympic ice princess to seize the public's imagination as a spotlight-hogging diva. Singlehandedly, she pioneered the role of figure skating heroine in a series of lightweight cotton-candy Hollywood musicals, their scripts mere spun-sugar confections but their appeal to the ticket buyer undeniable. Almost seven decades after Sonja skated off Olympic ice for the final time, no one has yet laid claim to be her successor in this role.
"Sun Valley Serenade" lives on in Sunday-morning PBS television screenings and that ultimate mulligan for the golden age of film, home video. Its centerpiece original song, "It Happened in Sun Valley", along with other Henie musical offerings, has entered the canon as an exemplar of the wintertime theme. (Another time, her "Let It Snow" actually became part of the Christmas repertory).
Sonja has been gone exactly 35 years now. Who will replace her? Katarina Witt of "Ronin" fame? Or whom?
The celebrated issue of "Time" from which American culture appropriated the expression "Swinging London" mentioned that Michelangelo Antonioni was poking about London, preparatory to making a movie about this surfacy (or profound - take your pick) phenomenon. The result, "Blow Up', is the drastic expansion of a short story about Latin American homosexuality, transmogrified into a mid-60s heterosexual romp.
OK, "Blow Up" is a thriller. A cool thriller, in which there is less than riveting suspense as the imitation David Bailey photographer protagonist investigates a murder he might just have caught on film. A director with a surer hand on a nation's pulse, an Alfred Hitchcock somehow returned to the old soil in his golden years, might have made something of this. The Italian scenarist/helmsman and his multinational collaborators clearly haven't a clue - surely not a good start to a crime story.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Ode to Jet Lag
Somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone was bound to film an ode to asynchronosis, A/K/A "jet lag". This annoying psychological/physical ailment is common coin among the majority culture, so this shared experience should provide instant recognition, if not understanding, for the mass audience.
Supposedly, director Sofia 'Daughter of' Coppola dragged her cast out of bed in the middle of the Asian night to film scenes set in that exact time frame. When the cast seems sleepless in the wee hours, they really are. All of us can nod knowingly and remember. My memories are of a place called Ouchamps, France, where to look out the window at 3am is to see the one light shining for miles in the middle of nowhere. Bill Murray and his character of Bob can remember the Tokyo Park Hyatt Hotel.
If you're not old enough to remember Bill Murray's SNL/Caddyshack salad days, you can't possible understand the Proustian self-parody of the old man, a has-been actor, realizing that he is, in fact, a has-been actor and is doing so in the context of a movie in which he has deliberately been cast as a has-been actor. No wonder that they weren't sure he'd do it until he showed up on day one of the shooting schedule.
This film won the Oscar for best original screenplay, but it could more accurately be described as the best-assembled film composed of largely improvised dialogue spoken by jet-lagged performers zombie-walking through the Japanese night. Strange but true: I cringed in recognition, but I loved it.
The Family Jewels (1965)
Sevenfold Star Vehicle
I finally figured out why the French love Jerry Lewis. They have this idea that one guy should be the "author" of a film: director, scenarist, star performer, the whole bit. Fernandel was like that. For their transAtlantic tastes, this standup jokester turned movie mogul is just the ticket.
I saw "The Family Jewels" in the theater as a little boy and loved it; Lewis had reached the point where he could make kids laugh. But are Vegas audiences of adults still buying his act?
This story probably would have been more believable as a stage presentation, as Lewis's mugging certainly works better before a live audience. It's OK on film, and continues to appear on cable from time to time. For someone who figured out how to entertain the little ones, Jerry Lewis here pulls off the very considerable feat of not being upstaged by a child actor.
The Transatlantic Bear
If memory serves, the original Steiff toy belonging to the late Christopher Robin Milne, "Winnie the Pooh", now resides in Manhattan, either at the New York Public Library or at publisher E.P. Dutton's headquarters. The symbolism is obvious: a British children's classic has made the transatlantic leap.
Disney scriptwriters have been heavily criticized for de-emphasizing the Britishness of Pooh, beginning with this first film in what became a series of theatrical short subjects. Most of the voices - Christopher is an exception - are American. Sterling Holloway became so identified with the title role that it is hard to imagine anyone else, British or American, taking it over.
The best thing about "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree" is that it is adapted directly from Alan Milne's printed work. As I did in 1966, a child today seeing this film for the first time could ask for the book version and receive something unusually congruent with the screenplay.
Christopher Robin Milne, bookshop owner and authors' rights heir, had notoriously mixed feelings about his father's creation. In particular, he had his doubts about the effect Disney's version might have on the original.
Not to worry: the Disney machine has generated far more positive attention for Pooh than a global army of publishers.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Those of us who saw "Mary Poppins" in the theater as children will have very sentimental feelings about this film. Forty years on, it stands out as part of the very last generation of screen musicals, in company with "The Sound of Music" and "My Fair Lady". Such things would (to be fair: should) only be done on Broadway these days.
The point of a musical is that the storyline is carried forward by the songs and not by the spoken dialogue. "Mary Poppins" works on this level, as you could delete all the dialogue and still follow the plot. I sensed this even at seven, as it seemed more interesting to listen to these trained voices than to hear adult actors delivering lines. (If memory serves, only Admiral Boom and the Constable don't have musical numbers).
Ed Wynn and Dick Van Dyke do their best to sound British. They're joined by a cross section of Hollywood's English colony, many of them now gone. Julie Andrews joined the very small club of actors who've won Oscars for their debut films. I cannot vouch for the notorious variations between the film script and Pamela Travers's books, but this one can be summed up in Mary Poppins's own words: "Practically perfect."
Les visiteurs (1993)
Subtitles and All
Sometime soon we'll agree not to be mad at the French. When that happens, look for "Les Visiteurs" on cable or at the video place. The frantic humor of this time-shifting comedy works well both on the French dialogue track and through the somewhat loose paraphrases of the subtitles. Yes, folks, subtitles and all, this is a good one.
Christian Clavier emerged from the Splendide, a French take on Second City, to seize the film comedy market by the throat. Like Jerry Lewis, he is in need of a straight man. Lewis's moved on to the Ding-a-Ling Sisters. Clavier has granite-faced Jean Reno of "French Kiss" and "Mission Impossible", the man with the permanent dix-sept heures shadow across his jowls. Their interaction is spot-on hilarious.
Oddly, the memorable quote from this film is in (sort of) English. "OK" is acceptable Franglais, the Academie notwithstanding. Clavier's character becomes fascinated with the word, shouting "O-Kayyy"! at the least provocation. Listen to my wife and I converse: we echo old Jacqouille all the time.
Visions of Eight (1973)
End of an Era
The 1972 Summer Olympic Games, in many ways, were the end of an era. Since 1936, the IOC had required each Local Organizing Committee to submit a documentary film as an historical record of their Games. After Munich, less emphasis was placed upon this and more upon Bud Greenspan's independent efforts. Only one-eighth of this film was directed by a West German; today, an American helms them all.
Munich '72 was the last occasion on which Olympic security could be said to be at all relaxed. The face of terrorism, at least before 9/11, bears the stocking mask of the Black September lookout at 31 Connollystrasse in the Olympic Village. John Schlesinger of "Midnight Cowboy" fame, assigned to film a British marathon runner, incorporates the tragedy into his mini-film as a distraction to the absurdly detached athlete.
After 1936 they all were imitating Leni Riefenstahl. Here, Japanese director Kon Ichikawa, filming his second Olympics, rings a change on the German's pioneering use of slow motion, using three dozen Arriflexes and four miles of film to turn the 100-meter dash into a quarter-hour examination of tortured lungs and leg muscles.
Producer David Wolper's take on this film was that it could have been better and was greatly improved in the editing room. The same could be said of any slice-of-life documentary, sporting or otherwise. The voice-over narrator sounds a lot like David Perry, who would soon become ubiquitous as Bud Greenspan's offscreen announcer. For almost the final time, feature directors got to play documentarian all those years ago.
A Snapshot of History
Thirty-five years later and we're still arguing about Woodstock. Was it about the music? About cultural collisions? About Vietnam? About higher consciousness, chemically-boosted and otherwise? "Woodstock" covers all of these bases as it presents a snapshot of that week in the Moon Landing Summer.
The problem with making a documentary is that the action is happening all around you, not on one stage a scene at a time. Director Michael Wadleigh, heading a filming/editing team later rewarded with an Oscar, sent crews across Sullivan County (in the Borscht Belt) to record audience, neighbor and backstage action concurrent with, and often wildly contrasting with, the music being played onstage. Clever assembly editing results in a series of story lines resolving themselves with little reference to what was being performed at that moment.
One test of the staying power of any film is the presence of memorable dialogue making its way into the permanent culture. The fact that any American under 65 will smile on hearing about "the brown acid" shows that "Woodstock" has earned its place in the film canon. Michael Wadleigh's passengers on his Buffalo Transit bus doubtless have no idea of their driver's contribution to popular culture.
'Round Midnight (1986)
In the Existentialist '50s, bebop jazz expanded beyond Manhattan and became all the rage in Paris. French intellectuals such as Sartre (in his pro-American hotdogs-and-bourbon phase) applied their knowledge to the music of poorly-educated African-Americans and discovered that this too, like the cinema of Jerry Lewis, was something they could like about America.
Director/scenarist Bertrand Tavernier, a veteran of the St. Germain des Pres scene, crafted "Round Midnight" as a nostalgic tribute to a now-vanished European musical scene. (The Blue Note Club is a studio set, the original having been pulled down). Melding the life stories of pianist Bud Powell and sax man Lester Young into a memorable character called Dale Turner, Tavernier benefited from the fortunate casting of real-life musician Dexter Gordon to play this role.
Gordon spent much of his working life in Copenhagen and in 1963 made a record with Powell in Paris. The two were part of a large group of black American jazzmen who gigged across Western Europe as the 52nd Street scene back home began to wane. Essentially, Gordon played himself, for which he deservedly received an Oscar nomination on his first try.
Musicians are not necessarily actors, but "Round Midnight" is bolstered by strong performances from a number of U.S. and French jazz players paying tribute to their own. As pleasant as the film's musical score is, "Round Midnight" succeeds because the cast of music professionals shows what they can do away from the bandstand.
Le Mans (1971)
McQueen as McQueen
Oftentimes Steve McQueen found himself playing characters very different from himself. A rebel punk from the streets, he found ways to make himself convincing as a soldier, a cop and a polo-playing socialite. "Le Mans", a film he produced himself, gave McQueen the chance to play something more true to life.
Before Paul Newman, Steve McQueen was Hollywood's resident automobile racing enthusiast. He entered the 12 Hours of Sebring and acquitted himself well. It was said that he tried ferociously hard to prove to the racing establishment that he was one of them, and not just a dilettante from the film colony.
"Le Mans" reflects McQueen's fascination with the world of sports car racing. The event itself is the story, with his own and other characters' misadventures mere filler. A mixture of race-shot footage from the 1970 event and months of stunt work on the rented Le Mans racecourse, "Le Mans" achieves McQueen's goal of presenting a documentary of the racing scene within the context of a believable story.