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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2011

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"Le Mans" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2011-lemans

Synopsis

Le Mans is a close-up look at one of the world’s great races.  For 24 hours, 55 cars battle to cross the finish line first.  During the grueling test, drivers must endure fatigue, mechanical troubles, deadly accidents and their own personal demons.  Porsche driver Michael Delaney (McQueen) returns to the race one year after an accident that killed another driver determined to bring home the checkered flag for his team.  He encounters the widow of Belgetti, the driver he watched burn to death and the memories come flooding back.  The drama plays out on the track as Porsche and Ferrari duke it out for the entire 24 hours to end in one of the closest finishes ever.  The footage is incredible and the film is a non-stop ride until the credits roll!

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 1971, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 48 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Steve McQueen
  • Directed by Lee H. Katzin
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

There are really only two properly done racing films, Grand Prix, which I’ll cover in the next review and Le Mans.  Racing was a far different sport in 1971 than it is today.  When an accident happened the best you could hope for is serious injury.  More often, drivers were killed.  It truly was a blood sport.  One line that stands out for me is said by Belgetti’s widow, “If men risk their lives, shouldn’t it be for something important?”  The real drama here is the passion men have for motor racing and the lengths they’re willing to go to to win.  There is virtually no dialog in the entire film.  Only a brief conversation between Delaney and Ms. Belgetti and a few words uttered in the pits break up the film’s landscape.  The real star here is the stunning cinematography.  The shots of the spectators, the support personnel, the drivers and of course the amazing on-track camera-work are like no other movie.  This is long before CGI made the impossible possible.  45 star drivers of the day were utilized to create all the shots and the filming was done entirely on the Le Mans circuit in France.  Even music is barely a factor.  The ambient sound creates such a realistic environment; it would just be a distraction.  Race fan will not fail to enjoy this film and for them, it’s a must-own.

Technical

The restoration is superbly done in all respects.  Film grain is evident but entirely appropriate and never distracting.  Color is the real star with rich bold hues throughout.  Flesh tones were entirely natural and the super-colorful race cars just popped from the screen.  There isn’t much dark material but black levels are deep and uniform.  There is no evidence of edge enhancement or digital scrubbing which I appreciated.  The look and feel of a 1971 film is beautifully preserved.

The DTS-HD Master Audio track is presented here in a 7.1 mix, converted from the original six-channel one used in the 70mm version of the film.  Detail is stunning with some of the best ambient sound effects I’ve ever heard.  Explosions sound a bit hollow and light on bass but this is undoubtedly due to the source material.  Like the video, the audio restoration couldn’t be any better.  The sparsely-used music by Michel Legrand is typical seventies fare, sounding a bit like muzak, but again, appropriate to the feel of the movie.

Extras

Bonus features include a 23-minute documentary on the making of the film hosted by Steve McQueen’s son Chad and a theatrical trailer.