came between Macbeth and Chinatown, or in less edifying terms, between
the horrifying murder of Sharon Tate and the infamous rape of an under-aged
girl in Jack Nicholson’s Mulholland home. Even Formula One champion Jackie
Stewart seemed rather surprised by Roman Polanski’s interest in the sport, but
they got on famously in Frank Simon’s rarely seen documentary, Weekend of a Champion (trailer here), produced by on-camera
super-fan Polanski, which opens this Friday at the IFC Center.
1971, it was debatable who was a bigger celebrity, Stewart or Polanski. Stewart was looking to win his second Monaco
Grand Prix as part of his march towards a second Formula One world championship. However, this would be his first race in a
brand new car. Although unharmed,
Stewart was still somewhat shook up from the accident that had totaled his
previous vehicle. Still, Stewart appears
to have a natural affinity for Monte Carlo street course, explaining each
twisty turn to Polanski in the drive-along that might be the film’s highlight.
you are a fan of Jackie Stewart or Formula One racing in general, then Weekend is all kinds of awesome. If not, the Polanski factor and the nostalgic
vibe are just enough to keep non-fans invested.
Evidently, Formula One was a different beast forty-some years ago. Having already lost most of his closest
friends and colleagues to track related accidents, Stewart was arguably lucky just
to be alive. His tireless advocacy of
safety reforms would dramatically improve driver mortality rates. Yet, the sport was also considerably more intimate
at the time. Fans lining the Monte Carlo
streets could practically reach out and touch the cars as they flashed by.
newly restored Weekend adds a new
postscript featuring Stewart and Polanski talking about how things used to
be. It is mostly forgettable mutual
appreciation stuff, but when they revisit the road course, it really brings
home that sense of how time passes.
all likelihood, Weekend probably will
not convert vast armies of Formula One fans, but viewers can easily see how
Stewart smoothly segued into a second career as a broadcast commentator. He has a way of explaining nuts-and-bolts
details in clear and descriptive terms. Frankly,
Polanski is just along for the ride, but his rapport with Stewart seems
Once the race starts, there is hardly any
question as to the outcome, but Simon and the battery of editors nicely bake in
a fair degree of suspense through sequences addressing the new car and
uncertain weather conditions. While not
exactly a cinematic landmark, Weekend
is a highly watchable as a sports documentary time capsule, with obvious
novelty value to cineastes. It is sort
of mind-blowing that this even exists, but here it is (with fleeting cameos
from Ringo Starr and Joan Collins).
Recommended for motor sports enthusiasts and compulsive Polanski
apologists, Weekend of a Champion opens
this Friday (11/22) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Car movies, Documentary, Jackie Stewart, Roman Polanski