Sunday, 5 June 2011

Steve McQueen

A friend once said that all men go through a Steve McQueen-phase. If it is just a phase, then that phase has been going on for quite some time for me, and I see no end yet. Even though he may have been a hard and perhaps unpleasant man in private, on screen he was fantastic, steely magnetism. His characters, to a large part consisting of self-sufficient loners who are not afraid of sacrificing themselves in a brutal and decaying world, appeals to me, some kind of romantic vision of how one should live. There was a time when I wished I was like that, and in a way I needed McQueen, as somebody to seek comfort and guidance from when the going got tough. Not anymore, but the romantic idea of that kind of life lingers on, and some quotes from his films have got a life of their own in my subconscious. There is some philosophy of life there, and it is fitting that he did his best work under the direction of Sam Peckinpah (two films from 1972, Junior Bonner and The Getaway) and Don Siegel (ten years earlier in Hell Is For Heroes).

His first real film was the very good boxing biopic Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956, Robert Wise), where he uncredited plays a knife-wielding hooligan. But it was 1960, when he made The Magnificent Seven, that he became really big and it lasted for 20 years until he died of cancer, only 50 years old. The Magnificent Seven was also the first time he worked with director John Sturges and other films he was great in include The Great Escape (1963, also by Sturges), The Sand Pebbles (1965, Robert Wise again) and Bullitt (1968, Peter Yates), and somewhat different in The Reivers (1966, Mark Rydell), a comedy based on William Faulkner's last novel (Roger Ebert wrote at the time that the adaptation felt closer to Mark Twain).

But even if I do not have the same need for McQueen anymore, every now and then I get the urge to see some of his films. Just to see him act. Or perhaps not act, but be. Here is a clip from Le Mans (1971), a great film, and this is one of those quotes I mentioned above:

Philosophy on film can take many different forms.

Slightly amended 2013-12-09

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