August 24, 2014

Weekend Of A Champion - Jackie Stewart and the 1971 Monaco Grand Prix

Hollywood has never really given auto racing it's proper due. A sport with as much drama, action and romance has never translated to the screen in such a way that attracts a mass audience. Unfortunately, Roman Polanski's 'Weekend of a Champion' is no exception. It quietly found its way on to Netflix without a lot of fanfare, even with mainstream mogul, Brett Ratner behind it.

That said, this film deserves more. Not only does it convey the unique landscape of classic racing, but it takes us behind the scenes with one of the greats, Jackie Stewart. Mr. Polanski and Mr. Stewart give us this unique perspective on the world's greatest race. First hand, we hear about Jackie's strategies on the 1971 streets of Monaco and how he attacks the circuit as a champion.

With Formula 1 in its most dangerous era we are given a total fly-on-the-wall perspective as Stewart prepares for the race. We walk with Helen Stewart as she bravely watches her husband suit up after a weekend of rain and approach a sport that had a 1 in 3 chance of surviving.

I won't lie and pretend that the 1971 European lifestyle wasn't an amazing character of the film as well - the elegance of the participants, the beautiful women, the luxurious hotels that lined the circuit. Some of the best scenes in the film are Stewart and Polanski strategizing from his hotel suite that overlooked the circuit. 

I've come to know Mr. Stewart over the years as a family friend, but my affection and admiration has tripled since watching this film. Not only did he battle for safety in the sport, but he did so with a severe learning disability. He reveals this at the end of the film in an unexpected and incredible epilogue that features himself and Mr. Polanski in present day, looking back on the history of the sport and the supreme losses of great men that fell to the lack of safety in the 60s - 70s era. He is a true inspiration.

This is a great film - a gripping story with a genuine hero in the lead. I greatly commend Mr. Ratner, who allowed this film a life, 40 years after its original production.  'Weekend of a Champion' is the quintessential race film and Mr. Stewart is, without question, a quintessential gentleman.


#formula1     #jackiestewart   #weekendofachampion   #romanpolanksi

No comments: