Forget about Bullitt, Ronin and Vanishing Point. There’s a new contender for greatest car movie ever made. It’s called Parts and Labor, and it’s over thirteen hours long.
Instead of Steve McQueen performing multiple stunts, the film stars the engine of a 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit and a pair of greasy hands. Like the still shown above, all the action consists of close ups of the engine being methodically taken apart and put back together again — triple-X rated pornography for the folks over at VW Vortex.
Filmmaker Jesse Cain is both the man behind the camera and the mechanic working on the car, and the project took him over two years. He said he originally wanted to film himself working on an iconic piece of Detroit iron, but chose a broken-down Rabbit since his name was already on its title.
“I decided to be thrifty in the recession environment and fix what I already owned,” Cain said. “The movie is entirely shot with close-ups, each shot composition and duration determined by the size, shape and difficulty of removing or installing each part.” You can watch ten minutes of it in the video clip below.
Cain doesn’t have any illusions about his own abilities as a mechanic, admitting to multiple mistakes he made throughout the process. “It would be fun to sit with an ASE certified mechanic and have him or her critique my work,” he said. “I’m pretty sure there would be some big laughs and horrified cringes at times.”
The project started as part of a larger film that Cain had planned, about a boy who fixes a long-neglected car after his family’s home goes into foreclosure. After shooting the scenes with the Rabbit, however, Cain realized the car was the true star.
“I started filming tests of how I imagined the engine scenes would look, and after watching the dailies of these tests I realized that I had already started shooting the film I wanted to make,” he said.
The result was a film that took as long as Cain spent working on the car. “Instead of relying on the usual tricks of filmmaking — jump cuts, time lapse, or simple editing of action — I left the camera rolling and showed the entire process,” he said. “The work involved took me 13 hours, three minutes on camera. It’s kind of a rejection of internet culture and immediacy.”
So far, response has been positive. New York City’s Anthology Film Archives screened Parts and Labor last weekend, offering a special ticket that allowed audience members to come and go as they pleased. The program even touted that the film “out-Warholed Andy.”
“Most people find it very meditative,” Cain said. “It’s very easy to settle into it for a while and become involved in the minutia of the operation. Others say it’s surprisingly riveting. The struggle and success of each shot has its own narrative arc.”
In other words, it’s just like working on a car.