Friday, December 25, 2009

The Bourne Identity -- One of My Favorite Chase Scenes -- with a Mini



In my book, The Automobile and American Life, I include a good number of films within the historical narrative. But like many history books, I tend to run out of gas as I reach the recent past, and that is true of the films I fail to discuss. Maybe there will be a second edition in which I can set the record straighter than before.
I have yet to see Invicitus, but in general I am a big Matt Damon Bourne series fan. The Bourne Identity was the first of three films featuring the character Jason Bourne, and his quest to find out who he was/is.
The chase scene is the best scene in the film, yet it is only 4 minutes or so long. While like Ronan taking place in Paris, it is different in many respects because it humanizes the car chase, and in another way develops the characters. Very little is said during the scene, but what is said has weight. Bourne begins by addressing his recently met female companion "You take care of the car?" He continues " "The tires felt a little splashy coming over here." How many drivers would notice this? How many women owners watch tires pressures? Marie answers "it pulls a little to the right." Little does she realize what is in store for her on this drive!
Bourne then says, "Last chance, Marie." Marie's face about her commitment thato a mna she knows so little about is definite, as she clicks the seat belt.. It is then that the muisc starts.
The car is a wron out little red mini, quite popualr in Europe, though not so in the U.S> until the BMW minis arrived on our shores. What follows is a great chase scene involving motorcycles and narrow Parisian streets, down a series of stairs ("So, we have a bump coming up'), and on sidewalks. Nobody seems to get seriously hurt, but it is memorable nonetheless, as though our viewing the characters faces we learn so much about the pair.
This was a scene that was planned months in advance of filming. The stunt people were superb, especially the motorcycle drivers, who were French. Filming took place in the back seat, and at times using a British right hand drive Mini so that Matt Damon could hold on to a fake wheel.
The quality of this work goes back to Fanny, the first assistant director of the film. She made the city of Paris seem populated.
In the end, the pair pull into a garage, and Matt Damon says " We can never come back to this car." For a city like Paris, would we really want anything but a car like this one?

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