Bullitt (1968) Directed by Peter Yates
Flu and bronchitis have been keeping me indoors the last few days. Uninspiring food choices, meds and more meds, toilet tissue, runny nose blah blah blah. Coughing fits are regular, need something to focus on. Watching movies is easy. There's an unwatched pile on the shelf, get to it.
Steve McQueen is nowadays regarded as the epitome of male cool in 60's American cinema. An icon as macho film superstar who paved the way for so many to follow. Bullitt is one of the reasons for this view, especially since scenes from the picture were used in a car add a few years ago. A whole new audience got to identify with the snappy dresser of Bullitt and the sublime Lalo Schifrin soundtrack. The myth grows. This cool perception of McQueen does undermine how good a screen presence he was.
The plot of Bullitt is weak, it's a movie with little substance. Characterization is zero here. The less said about Jacqueline Bisset in this picture the better. The famous car chase nowadays seems overlong and just endless shots of cars going over the hilly streets of San Francisco. But despite all this, Bullitt is a classic film and a perfect example of that presence of McQueen's I mentioned earlier.
McQueen displays pure technique in this film, he's the only thing you need to watch here. Every frame he appears in is measured and assured. McQueen more than most actors new that in cinema the relationship with the camera was everything. Steve doesn't have many lines in Bullitt. He has a series of intense facial expressions that reveal all you need to know about his character. McQueen personifies economy and control. His performance in Bullitt is pure aesthetics.
Bullitt probably changed the cop film for good. It's stylized for sure, and Clint was surely watching this for Dirty Harry. Machismo, testosterone, intelligence and honesty. That's McQueen on screen in his best films. The black pants, blue polo neck and brown sand shoes that McQueen sports in Bullitt are a high point of male on-screen fashion. Or maybe it seems this way just because McQueen is wearing those clothes. Bullitt is essence of McQueen. Study it.