January 25, 2022

Steve McQueen, the man who invented cool

Job by Marc Larcher January 11, 2022

With its best films including BULLIT and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, TCM Cinéma offers us a cycle of Steve McQueen, the seducer of the 60s and 70s.

He was nicknamed the “king of cool”

It is perhaps with him that modern cinema, giving pride of place to blockbusters based on a personality as attractive as it is endearing, began. Lagoon blue eyes, a carnivorous smile, an irreproachable physique, a humor mixing I-don’t care and cynicism, an impeccable costume port, it is not for nothing that Steve McQueen was nicknamed “The King of Cool” “. To start the year off in the best possible light, TCM Cinéma offers an excellent cycle on the actor who dominated world cinema in the 60s. Besides good thrillers, we will be able to (re) discover several aspects of his personality and his filmography.

An unbroken streak of success

First, Peter Yates’ BULLIT, a film copied dozens of times, from BABY DRIVER (2017) to the FAST & FURIOUS franchise, with at its center what remains the best car chase in cinema history: 11 minutes of pure madness in the streets of San Francisco between a Ford Mustang and a Dodge Charger. Behind the wheel, a real driver in the person of Steve – his father was a stuntman – who, it should be remembered, has increased the number of car races in parallel with his film career (including the 12 Hours of Sebring which he won in his category ) and motorcycle. BULLIT is also a good detective film which launched the international career of the French Jacqueline Bisset and a memorable soundtrack by Lalo Schiffrin. Another piece of choice, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR released the same year in 1968, the most elegant of the heist films in which McQueen plays Thomas Crown, a sort of American Arsene Lupine, a millionaire who steals for his own pleasure. On his heels, we find the sublime Faye Dunaway who is looking for him on behalf of an insurance company. Here again, the hero’s steps are accompanied by a historic soundtrack, that of Michel Legrand. Cinephiles will watch with attention the famous scene of the kiss and the part of chess to the coded eroticism. Here again, Steve McQueen demonstrates an extraordinary power of seduction and impeccable style, both in his outfits and in his attitude. For LE GUET-APENS (1972), he plunges into the violent universe of Sam Peckinpah in gallant company since it is his future half Ally McGraw who serves as his partner. This time he plays a man who, to get out of prison, has to rob a bank on behalf of a big guy. While his accomplice tries to shoot him, he flees with his wife across the country. The nods to Bonnie & Clyde are obvious but this couple are despite appearances on the right side of the law.

A tragic end

With each film, the Steve McQueen formula works, the former Marine adds to the profile of his competitors Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, the dose of humor they lack and his ability to perform his own stunts, without however reaching the ability to play in dramatic films that shaped the success of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. A character of pig, a natural propensity for rebellion will limit his career after having chained the successes like BUTTERFLY (1973) by Franklin J. Schaffner alongside the excellent Dustin Hoffman and THE INFERNAL TOWER (1974) by John Guillermin. Withdrawn from the studios for several years at the end of the 70s, he isolated himself, grew fat and fell seriously ill. The “king of cool” will not see his fifties or the turn of the 80s. The McQueen phenomenon will therefore remain a shooting star, but what a star!


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