There are films and directors that are marked by a certain scene – even though the feature film and its filmmaker have more to present. That’s what happens in Bullitt, directed by the Englishman Peter Yates, in 1968: the electrifying car race to the sound of Lalo Schifrin’s track is always remembered when referring to this film, even if its dramatic structure is first rate. Here, Steve McQueen plays Frank Bullitt, a police officer who chases those responsible for the death of a witness in his custody.
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Bullitt is one of the highlights of the Mostra Steve McQueen – The King of Cool, meeting of 29 productions, between films and documentaries, about the star that starts this Monday, 22, in the cinema hall of the CCBB paulistano. It is a rare opportunity to get to know or review the style of McQueen (1930-1980), an actor who defined the ideal way to interpret police officers with missions considered impossible thanks to his personal magnetism – hence the nickname “King of Cool “, king of hipsters. And it cannot be denied that the 12-minute scene in which he drives a Mustang GT at high speed along the hills of San Francisco is still considered a landmark.
One of the most charming and virile Hollywood stars of the 1960s, McQueen is remembered for his iconic characters, usually heroes with characteristics that are not always virtuous, which soon raised him to a kind of symbol of the American counterculture – after all, he was opposed to the good guys in cinema. McQueen was also a great icon in men’s fashion that has influenced millions of men for decades.
Such significance added luster to his scenes, favoring some of them becoming classic – in addition to Bullitt’s famous persecution, as if he forgot another one, which marked Fugindo do Inferno, directed by John Sturges, 1963. It is an epic of group, developed from a real story: the attempt to escape allied prisoners from a model camp created by the Germans, during World War II. The plot’s focus avoids themes like holocaust or crematorium ovens to focus on a territory tailored to the clashes between men, which was Sturges’ favorite theme.
For the plan to be successful it is necessary that men unite, but personal characteristics end up imposing themselves. And the most audacious of these individualists is played by McQueen. Also the noblest when risking his own freedom, his greatest asset, to try to help his friends. And how that happens has entered the history of cinema, in the scene where McQueen flees from the Nazis on the back of a fast motorcycle.
It was under the direction of Sturges, by the way, that the actor starred in another great film – and again alongside a group of stars (Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson). It is about Seven Men and a Destiny (1960), in which Sturges transposed the saga of The Seven Samurais (1954), by Akira Kurosawa, into the Wild West. With that, he anticipated the spaghetti western.
Here, Sturges narrates the drama of peasants who hire gunmen to defend them from the bandits who want to steal their crops. As if the interest aroused by the plot was not enough, the film became memorable for several of its scenes: Brynner dressed in black, McQueen with a rifle beside him in the hearse and Coburn awakening from his nap when provoked by a gunman. And, in addition, the striking music of Elmer Bernstein.
The star also worked with another great filmmaker, Sam Peckinpah, with whom, in fact, the immense action was in the background: Ten Seconds of Danger (1972) tells the story of a rodeo champion. Os Implacáveis (1973), that of a man who gets out of jail because his wife maintained relations with the crime boss and even committed him in an assault. Here, the charisma of the actor emerges in style.
“McQueen is part of a line of names that constitute landmarks of dramatic art, and his filmography needs to be observed and analyzed from this perspective”, evaluates Mário Abbade, curator of the show. “He was such a strong icon that he felt free to say no to directors like Coppola, Spielberg and Milos Forman, refusing millionaire invitations and roles that other professionals dreamed of, like those in Apocalypse Now and A Stranger in the Nest.”
In fact, he preferred to participate in films of great popular appeal, such as Papillon (1973), by Franklin J. Schaffner, adaptation of the French autobiographical bestseller Henri Charrière, about his attempts to escape from the prison on the Devil’s Island – the characters McQueen and Dustin Hoffman have a melancholy ending. Or Inferno na Torre (1974), by John Guillermin, an example of the so-called disaster movie in which McQueen (as a fireman) and the rest of the stellar cast (Paul Newman, William Holden, Fred Astaire) are overshadowed by fire.