Ron Howard's Rush was to be the first of a wave of motorsports films, a turning point that would make regular Americans finally love F1. It was an enjoyable flick, but it didn't manage to move many non-F1 junkies into theaters and it wasn't quite nerdy enough for hardcore fans. Nerds rejoice! Weekend Of A Champion is a film that will give you goosebumps.
The problem I have with Rush, and motorsports as fictional entertainment in general, is that it has to be overly faked in order to become entertaining to a mass audience. Computer generated crashes and racing scenes look worse than George Costanza in a toupee. There was also the hyped drama between good friends Niki Lauda and James Hunt, people who didn't ever actually hate each other.
But Rush isn't the only film that ruins racing when fictionalized. Le Mans is exceptionally boring. Driven just flat out blows. The only film that comes close to accuracy, in my view, is Grand Prix. And even then, it's too long and too much drama is interjected for no reason.
While racing as a fictional film is a mostly boring and lame proposition, racing as a documentary is one of the most compelling and thrilling subjects a filmmaker can go after. Just look at the success of Senna, which fakes literally nothing. Rally doc Easier Said Than Done is also one of the finest cinematic experiences a racing fan can have.
Then we come to Weekend Of A Champion, which was originally released in 1972 and is now coming back, presumably because of the buzz Rush created. In 1971, director, producer, and possible sex offender Roman Polanski went to the Monaco Grand Prix. He was given total access to three time champion Jackie Stewart, and the cameras rolled the whole time. As the eagle eyed among you may have guessed, the film follows Stewart's entire Monaco GP weekend.
And it's brilliant.
What you do get is the best inside look at Grand Prix racing in the 1970s that I've seen. You get to see Jackie Stewart explain race car driving in his underwear, on-board views around Monaco in the rain, huge sideburns, and an unfiltered look at GP racing in 1971.
This movie isn't for everyone. At the screening I went to, the non-F1 fans were noticeably bored and waiting for the film to end. But the gearheads in the audience couldn't get enough. I had goosebumps for half of it, and just hearing Jackie Stewart talk shop is enough to keep me enthralled for weeks. It's the sort of car nerd fest film that makes you remember why you love Grand Prix racing.
When the film is re-released on November 22nd, find a way to go see it. Especially if you thought Rush did nothing to satiate your automotive film appetite. It won't build awareness and enthusiasm about F1 to a new audience, but it'll make the current F1 fanbase so very happy that it doesn't really matter at all.
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