Random cinematic connections: Ford vs. Ferrari A Man and a Woman, via Quentin Tarantino and Sergio Corbucci

One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching movies is making connections (sometimes random, sometimes obscure) between films. I make these associations either based on a common theme or based on some connection between the cast and crew of different films, and get quite a kick out of it. Here’s a story of an interesting set of connections that emerged across three films I watched in the past two weeks.

The first was Ford v Ferrari, James Mangold’s outstanding action-drama about the American automobile giant’s successful assault on the iconic Italian team’s stranglehold of the Le Mans 24-hour racing crown in the late 60s. I am a big fan of motor racing, but wasn’t very familiar with this historic chapter of racing history and I learned a lot about Le Mans in particular, including the novelty of how the race starts – the drivers have to stand on the other side of the pit lane across from their cars, and when the race officially starts, they have to sprint across, jump into their cars, shut the doors, start the engines and go…quite chaotic and entertaining.

Race drivers run to their cars at the start of the Le Mans 24 hour race, as depicted in Ford v Ferrari (2019); the history making Ford GT40 cars are the first three in the foreground.

A couple of weeks later, I was thinking about the two beautiful sports cars featured in Quentin Tarantino’s highly enjoyable Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that I had watched earlier this summer. One was the VW Karmann-Ghia driven by Brad Pitt’s character. And the other was MG TD driven by Roman Polanski. Reminiscing about the movie led me to think about a key plot point involving Leonardo Di Caprio’s character Rick Dalton spending some months in Italy to act in films for a director named Sergio Corbucci. While Dalton’s character and the film he acted in were fictitious, Corbucci was in fact a real-life Italian director and directed films the famous spaghetti western, Django starring Franco Nero. Although not a household name like fellow Italian Sergio Leone, a couple of Corbucci’s westerns are revered by fans of the genre, including Quentin Tarantino.

A poster of the fictitious spaghetti western that Leonardo di Caprio’s character Rick Dalton acts in, titled Nebraska Jim, directed by real-life Italian director Sergio Corbucci

So, I resolved to watch a Corbucci film and got hold of his other highly regarded effort, the 1968 western The Great Silence. It was pretty clear that the film strongly influenced Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, both westerns taking place in the middle of a severe winter (in adjoining states of Utah and Wyoming respectively), featuring scores by the legendary Ennio Morricone and having scenes involving stagecoaches, lodges and of course, plenty of violence and death. In fact, The Great Silence shocked viewers for its relentlessly downbeat storyline and the fate of leads (this was well before Game of Thrones taught us that no character is sacred!). The main protagonist of the story, a mute gunslinger called Silence, is played by the French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant.

A poster for a real Sergio Corbucci film, The Great Silence (Il Grande Silenzio) released in 1968, starring French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant

After watching the film, I read up about Trintignant. I had only seen him in Costa Gavras’ Z many years ago and more recently in the highly acclaimed Amour for which he won the French Cesar for best actor in 2013. He comes from an affluent family and two of his uncles were race car drivers of repute. He was therefore very familiar with the world of automobiles and race tracks. This was one key factor in him being cast in Claude Lelouche’s 1966 classic romantic drama A Man and A Woman, where the male lead is a race car driver.

Since I was interested in watching some of Trintignant’s earlier films, I resolved to watch A Man and A Woman. I confess, a key factor in picking this film was his co-star in the film, the stunning French actress Anouk Aimee who had taken my breath away with her presence in Fellini’s 8 ½ many years ago. I watched the movie last night and thoroughly enjoyed it…the chemistry between the actors, the simplicity of the blossoming relationship between a widow and a widower, that amazing musical score and the stunning outdoor photography.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimee in Claude Lelouche’s 1966 classic A Man and a Woman

One of those outdoor scenes relates to Jean-Louis’ participation in…drumroll…the Le Mans 24 hour race! I was immediately transported to Ford v Ferrari, as I once again witnessed the entertaining start of Le Mans and other scenes from the race. And to seal the connection, a different scene in the film shows Trintignant’s character test driving an early version of the history-making Ford GT40 which is the centerpiece of Ford v Ferrari. His character incidentally also drives a Ford Mustang on the road and there are several beautiful shots of him racing through the French countryside.

So, this was the rather tenuous (but wildly exciting for me!) connection between James Mangold’s 2019 film Ford v Ferrari and Claude Lelouche’s 1966 film A Man and a Woman, created by way of Jean-Louis Trintignant’s presence in a 1968 Sergio Corbucci film The Great Silence which inspired Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 western The Hateful Eight and tangentially referenced in this year’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

I can think of taking these connections in other directions. Perhaps to rewatch the 1971 Steve McQueen classic Le Mans. Definitely need to watch Sergio Corbucci’s Django…maybe I’ll see some other visual cues used by Quentin Tarantino. And most certainly, I want to watch the two sequels that Claude Lelouche released in 1986 (A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later) and earlier this year (The Best Years of a Life), with the same two lead actors. I wonder what parallels I will find between these films and Richard Linklater’s hauntingly beautiful Before trilogy…

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