Thursday, September 8, 2011

SENNA: A Truly Great Movie!

So first of all, I’ll say I’ve been extremely excited about seeing this movie for quite some time now, being my first movie I’ve gone to in 19-months - and thus, I’m very biased in favour of the movie... As I found it to be extremely well done, fascinating and very powerful, with its edginess towards Ayrton’s continuous battle of racing vs. the dangerous perils inherent with the sport.

Of course for some reason I hadn’t even considered the possibility of Sub-titles in the movie, (30-45%of Movie...) which for Mwah, as a visually impaired F1 Aficionado made it somewhat difficult to follow the stories plot. Yet, I think I was able to get the gist of it, as I just cannot get over how passionate the Brazilian’s were over Ayrton, who truly was a National Hero! (Especially the Formula 1 Commentators upon his World Championships...)

As I’ve seen our current President on his “Book Tour” at Benaroya Hall before declaring his candicy, along with having been privileged to meet Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Parnelli Jones and Carroll Shelby to name just a few... Not to mention the good fortune of witnessing some of Formula 1’s Aristocracy In action; having seen Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet compete at Phoenix, Arizona. Not to mention someone I’ve taken to calling DER TERMINATOR, nee Michael Schumacher at home and abroad; as I simply bring this up to try somehow spotlighting just how Gynormous of an individual personality the late ‘Ay-airton was!

And whilst merely mentioning the various personalities above as reference - as the year’s flow by, I’m more ‘N more amazed that I could have reached out and touched this National Hero 22yrs ago which I chronicled in; May Day.

And I’ve also had the privilege of being in Der Fatherland during Herr Schumacher’s ‘IMMER FERRARI REIGN. But every time I hear the Brazilians chanting & singing in such high praise to Senna during his Home race - it simply makes the hairs on my backside immediately stand UP! As NOBODY compares to la Brasilia!

And I’ll not try repeating what all of the movie reviews have said - other then that the film does a masterful job of highlighting Senna’s Formula One career from 1984 to 1994; beginning with his debutant Toleman season, an extremely quick Lotus recap before focusing upon the main thrust of the McLaren and Williams era and his battles with Arch-nemesis Prost.

Yet what I found most amusing was how the movies two main protagonists came across to myself visually; which I don’t know if it was my CRAPY eyesight or intended? As I’ve scribbled before how I was originally an Alain Prost fan at the beginning of my F1 Odyssey, thus naturally Senna was thee ENEMY and I quickly took to renaming him ‘ARROGANT! (All those years ago...)

And yet while the documentary seems to try doing its best to portray Prost as the Bad Man - almost evil and certainly the Black knight of the two, with naturally Senna being the good, nee White knight of these opposing forces.

Therefore I found it very funny how the two protagonists came across cinematically to myself - with “the Professor,” nee Alain Prost’s entire facial close-ups showing up in glowing stark whiteness, as I could even discern the individual curls of his wavy hair, brilliant eyes, etc... While Senna’s facial portraits came across muted & grey, or a murky, dark colour - unable to make out his eyebrows, etc as it almost seemed purposeful as to correspond with Director Asif Kapadia’s intentions of pointing out Ayrton’s internal tug-o-war he was having within himself over the nature of the sport? (As I don’t know if this was just a visual thing all too myself or not?) 

And while I’ve prattled on a la Professor (Steve) Matchett style over DER TERMINATOR’S mythical runner-up finish to Damon (‘Damion) Hill whilst his Benetton-Ford was stuck in 5th gear, I’d completely forgotten Ayrton’s HERCULIAN efforts to finish off the ’91 Brazilian Grand Prix with his McLaren-Honda’s Gearbox unexpectedly acting up towards the end of the race - after a Gearbox failure had caught BLOODY ‘NIGE (Mansell_ out whilst trying to chase down Senna in P2 some half minute behind.

As Ayrton decided to simply leave his McLaren’s ‘Crashbox solely in 6th gear for the races final seven laps! To which Senna exuded so much effort that Mi Madre pointed out how it hurt to just have anybody touch him... Not to mention how Senna could barely lift the winner’s trophy aloft overhead!

I also found it very bemusing to hear Senna utter directly into the Camera’s Eye; there’s NO consistency! In regards to his Machiavellian dealings with the brusque Jean-Marie Balestre, who the film points out cynically is French, a la Prost. As there’s some great footage of constant bickering between Ayrton & Balestre during what I presumed were Driver meeting’s. Not to mention how bizarrely the Pole position is switched from the clean side to the dirty at the last moment (overnight) at Suzuka Circuito - when you guessed it! Senna’s on Pole and Prost alongside with the 1990 Driver’s World Championship hanging in the balance...

 As Senna and McLaren’s protests were to NO avail, which Senna took to announcing as French favourtism - which ostensibly, the year prior after the very same race had garnered the Brazilian a six-month suspension of his mandatory FIA Driver’s Superlicense and a ‘Mega $100,000 fine to boot for speaking out so unfavorably towards Messer Balestre!

Meanwhile, on race day, for the second year in-a-row the two rival titlist’s collided as Senna repaid the favour of the year  prior to Prost in order  to secure his second Driver’s crown.

As it was somewhat eerie to hear Bob Varsha and David Hobbs calling the Suzuka crash of 1989 in the movie, albeit the broadcast duo were then actually on-scene and calling the race for the ‘Deuce (ESPN2) I believe, as I know I watched that race in the middle of the night some two-plus decades ago; Aye Karumba! As I’d forgotten how the Driver’s title came down to the Japanese GP’s outcome four years in-a-row: 1988-89-90-91.

And it was even funnier how it took me approximately half of the movie to figure out who the main narrator’s voice was? Oh, it’s the ‘BIZ, as in the somewhat lamented John Bisignano... CRIKEYS! I’d totally washed him right outta my head!

 And I wept like a baby several times during the film, although “REAL MANLY MEN” DO NOT CRY! Nor eat Quiche, right? As I was overcome by emotions I think the first time (of many) when Professor Syd Watkins recounted how every time Ayrton entered the Paddock and passed by him, when their eyes met, Syd was instantly greeted by Senna’s flashy grin - a warm, bubbly, happy smile from the Brazilian. (With a packet ‘O Kleenex being handed to Mwah...)

As it would be later in the film when Syd mused how he’d told Ayrton: You’re the fastest, best driver in the world who’s won everything! You like fishing, why DON’T you retire, I’ll retire and we’ll both go fishing...

There’s also a very emotional moment when Mi Madre asks; did he DIE! When the camera’s focus upon Martin Donnelly’s HORRIFIC SHUNT! Which if I try hard enough I can still see the Camel yellow Lotus disintegrating into a MILLION pieces with the Irishman lying in the middle of the track in just his cockpit cell!

As Ayrton tells the camera how he needed to go to the crash site just for himself and how you must put that out of your mind, albeit being reminded of how violent your profession is. (As I believe Donnelly’s never walked quite right ever since...)

And whilst I was offered to have the Sub-titles read to me, I passed upon this as I felt it would distract from the movie, as I enjoyed conjuring up what the various Portuguese and French dialect’s were saying... With the greatest noises being the symphonic rhapsodies of the various in-car and racing footage - especially the normally aspirated ‘lumps! Not to mention those Brazilian TV commentators...

And I do recall there being three days of National Mourning for Senna, as Michael (an ex-Atlantics racer) tells me that a very quick image flashed upon the screen of the funeral procession shows the first two Pawl Bearer’s on the right side of casket being Emerson Fittipaldi and Alain Prost, with the others being a very young ‘Rubino? (Rubens Barrichello) Damon Hill, Sir Jackie Stewart and a further unidentified person. (According to WICKEDpedia...)

As another of Senna’s Countrymen - the irrepressible ‘TK (Tony Kanaan) puts his death into perspective;

"I cried a lot the day that he died," said Kanaan, who was at the Imola track that weekend. "I went to his funeral, and I didn't even go to my dad's funeral. It's the only funeral I've ever been to."
(Source: Curt Cavin; Indianapolis Star)

While lastly, I’ll use Michael’s word’s to describe another poignant moment of the film, when in closing Ayrton is asked who his fiercest competitor was - to which he gives a totally unexpected answer.

”He thought for a minute, and then answered with the name of a driver I had never heard of.” (Nor Myself...)


“Then Ayrton explained that it was a driver he competed with in go-carts: No money; No politics; Even equipment; Pure racing.”


As the Fullerton in question was Terry Fullerton; Senna’s (1978-80) Go-karting teammate who you can read more about in;

Terry Fullerton – the Norwich man Ayrton Senna had to follow

And while the film is wonderful and rightly shows the human side of Senna, keep in mind that much of the movie’s ‘Kodachrome is provided by the Senna family, thus obviously wishing to show Ayrton in his best light. As there’s NO mention of just a few of the Political games the Brazilian played himself, i.e.; running not one, but two teammates out of Lotus after he’d bolted from Toleman and was ‘Sat-down for one race outing for having broken his contract. As the late Elio de Angelis became so soured over what he deemed preferential treatment towards Ayrton during his first season at Lotus that the Italian left for Brabham at the end of ’85.

Then the following season Senna VETOED Englishman Derrick Warwick’s inclusion to Lotus as he felt the team couldn’t adequately provide two drivers number-one status, Err equal equipment and thus virtually unknown Scotsman Johnny Dumfries served as Ayrton’s Wingman instead... And this was all before he went to McLaren and butted heads against his (elder) senior teammate Alain Prost! Who I’d absolutely love to hear what The Professor’s take upon the movie is...

Landmark Varsity Theatre
Friday; August 26, 2011
2PM Matinee
Seattle, WA