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Bullitt/detective-action films

February 8, 2010

Last Saturday night, I watched Steve McQueen in Bullitt (Peter Yates, 1968 I believe) for the first time.  To me, it seemed that Yates was definitely going for something different.  Mainly, I think he was trying to identify Frank Bullitt (McQueen) as a working class guy.  Someone the audience could identify with.  He just tries to do his job, he likes jazz, goes out to eat, has a beautiful girlfriend who doesn’t realize what his job involves (Jaqueline Bissett) but stays with him in the end, wears his paisley pajamas to bed, and lives in an average house despite being well-known in his field.  He doesn’t make wisecracks, drink heavily, or complain that he really doesn’t want to do the job.  In fact, he seems quite lax in his work.  But when he and his partner go through evidence, they both make very factual comments about what they find and what they want labelled.  Yates keeps things incredibly low-key throughout especially through his use of sound.  Often the camera separates us from Bullitt with various barriers and we hear nothing of his conversation.  Soundtrack music is kept to a minimum, not even used to accompany the famous car chase.  Yates decides to avoid too much emotion and keeps the emphasis on Bullitt as no one special.  Yet, we don’t understand his work.  In the final shoot-out at the airport, crowd comments are questions about what was happening and what the dead criminal might have done.  It’s not a great film, but an interesting look at Hollywood’s attempt to capture both the young and the working class audiences at the time.

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