Film scores

Soundtrack review: Steve McQueen: The man and Le Mans (Jim Copperthwaite – 2015)

Steve McQueen #35

“STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN and LE MANS” is the story of obsession, betrayal and ultimate vindication. It is the story of how one of the most volatile, charismatic stars of his generation, who seemingly lost so much he held dear in the pursuit of his dream, nevertheless followed it to the end. This is documentary about the making of “Le Mans”, the film that changed the actor’s destiny. A troubled man, a troubled life, an interesting film. The score for the documentary was written by Jim Copperthwaite. Am very pumped for this score, for the story, for the intensity.

I have “Rush” in my mind when I start this score, because that’s my go to racing score. The emotion here is different here and the furious piano in “Sebring” just floors me. I wasn’t expecting such a stormy and intense cue so early in the score. I need to recover from this tornado of feelings. What a rush! “Obsession” uses the piano in a different but equally rewarding way. This cue is dark and determined and I understand it. This is how a fixed obsession should sound like. I am far gone into this score only a few cues in; I feel like I’ve know this score for ages and my faith in it seems to be justified. The intensity that drives this score from the first minutes keeps me connected to it and doesn’t let go.

The music is almost claustrophobic at times as if it was only playing what was going on in the confines of a driver’s helmet or within the walls of a troubled soul. The composer uses sound effects that bring us closer to the subject of the story. The instruments are used in such a way as to sometimes simulate pistons pushing or hearts beating, depending on how you want to interpret “Death was all around”.

I love the use of piano in this score, from deep and dreamy in “Camera car” and “Chateau” to rolling and aggressive in other cues. I could listen to a theme like “The man and Le mans” time and time again just to discover more subtleties and more emotions. This ending theme has all the weight this story demanded and tells in in a little over three minutes everything I needed to know about this album and composer. The mix of classical and modern experimental keeps me on the edge and makes this score richer and more enjoyable. The electronic build up in “The accident” for example is almost suffocating because of its tension. I love a score that makes me feel this way, a score that challenges me and leaves me stunned after some cues.

Besides Jim Copperthwaite’s tense and intense cues, we have some surprises at the end of the album: four cues by Michel Legrand from the original “Le Mans” film. They help me appreciate what Copperthwaite achieved here; he integrated his themes in the fabric of the original score and these final cues feel like a natural continuation. “The Man & Le Mans” is definitely one of the more memorable scores of this year.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 30 / 73

Album excellence: 41%

Highlights:

Seminal Moment

Obsession

Sebring

Death Was All Around

Camera Car

Chateau

The Accident

Fallout

Work Of Art

‘In Blood’

Broken Dreamer

Vindication

The Man & Le Mans

The Race, First Laps (Michel Legrand)

Finale (Michel Legrand)

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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