...I'll take that as a 'no'. In the apparent absence of a pre-existing thread on Senna, here are my collected thoughts (as already posted on Facebook), with a view to kicking off a discussion on here:
SENNA. Wow. I may only have seen about four new films in 2011, but this was easily the best. As Mark Kermode says, you don't need to know anything about Formula 1 (and I only know a very little) in order to get something from it.
What's amazing is that so much candid, semi-private footage survives, capturing Senna (and Prost) in moments of conflict and angst, enabling the director to piece it together like a work of narrative fiction. It's so much the story of the rivalry between the Frenchman and the Brazilian that a more honest title would have been Prost-Senna.
Not knowing beforehand which year, or on which track, he died is actually helpful, because the horrible anticipation is ramped up with each race and with each piece of ominous foreshadowing.
You wonder how the hell the other guys who were there that day - Schumacher, Hill, Barrichello etc - ever managed to step inside a racing car again. Barrichello had crashed himself (and got away with a broken arm and nose), and they'd all witnessed the death of Roland Ratzenberger only the previous day.
Incidentally, it's weird being reminded of how much Alain Prost, along with Michel Platini, was a formative influence upon my idea of what a typical Frenchman looks like.
Even more incidentally, it's weird being reminded of the existence of Selina Scott who, for a few years in the Eighties, was considered some sort of national sweetheart, the Princess Di of television.
And even more incidentally than those two, I kept finding it weird that he carried on as long as he did. My mind had consigned him to the late Eighties, but he was still going while, you know, cool Nineties music was happening. And I probably saw the sports bulletins at the time ("Ayrton Senna has won this, Alain Prost has one that") and shrugged "Fuck this, I'm off to see Daisy Chainsaw at the Camden Palace."
I loved the bit where, live on TV, he whispers in the ear of a presenter he is clearly about to shag. Imagine that happening on British television. Lewis Hamilton whispering to Holly Willoughby during some sort of kiddies' Christmas special that he's going to fuck her in the green room straight after.
I tell you who I found really creepy: Frank Williams. I know he's overcome disability and he's an inspiration to us all blah blah, but he makes my blood run cold, like some sort of callous Bond villain.
The bits with (FISA President) Jean-Marie Balestre made me cringe. He's one of those guys who thinks they can speak English but can't. When he sat all the drivers down (most of them not native English-speakers themselves) and gave them a talk, they clearly didn't have a fucking clue what he was saying, but sat there out of politeness till he'd finished. And wow, he was a piece of work. He certainly had, er,
I liked how the end credits told you about the Ayrton Senna Foundation then added "Alain Prost is a trustee", just so we don't come away from the film thinking Alain Prost is a total cunt who must DIE. (Which is a serious danger, considering the somewhat slanted approach the actual film takes.)
But yes, my film of the year: a documentary about a dead racing driver who, up until now, had just been rhyming slang for a tenner. I never saw that coming.*
I am appalled at myself for allowing this one through the flicks without going, and it will be on my next DVD list.
I was a huge F1 fan in what I consider the golden era - which now I think about it coincides with Senna's F1 career. I subscribed to Autosport from late 85 until late 94 and never missed the races, could recite the top six finishers from the 86 season through to about 91.
The four-way battle Piquet-Mansell-Prost-Senna was, in retrospect, unique and the level of skill, courage, passion and skulduggery a real one-off. The Senna/Prost situation became almost deadly.
Subsequent champions, in particular Schumacher and to a lesser extent Hakkinen and Vettel, are clearly fantastic drivers, but there's just something missing.
This is going to sound terribly hackneyed, but the day Senna died, so did the magic for me. I only watch the Aussie GP these days, and only then if I happen to be free.
I don't know how readily available it is through Iplayer because it was on a while ago, but the BBC documentary Grand Prix: The Killer Years was one of my television highlights of the year, an absolutely horrifying documentary. I thought there was a thread about it on here, but a quick look using the search facility doesn't bring one up.
Senna - just to echo everything positive said about it here. Despite all his wealth and fame and success you still get the sense in the film of someone thwarted, hard done by - that suspension, the politics, some of Prost's trickery. As SR says, the film is a bit slanted, and Senna almost certainly learned on or two of the black arts of gamesmanship himself, but you do feel that, if Formula 1 were conducted on an absolutely even playing field, he would have been absolutely dominant throughout his era, perhaps tediously so.
He coped superbly in the rain and that Brazilian Grand Prix in which he's forced to drive the last few laps in sixth gear takes my breath away again just to recall it. Most people, including his team Doctor would have said that he had more than proved his greatness, but he didn't believe that, seemed unfulfilled to the last. "I can't quit," he told him, and the film hints that he spent the run-up into that fateful race shadowed in foreboding at an inescapable fate but that's hindsight for you.
As SR says, the footage they've managed to unearth, including from meetings you would have assumed would have taken place behind closed doors with no cameras, is astonishingly candid and revealing. What Prost said about Senna being a danger because, believing as he did in God, he felt himself to be invincible was kinda interesting - maybe Senna's faith, and a sense that he would be transcendent in some way pushed him on further. You wouldn't catch me trundling along at more than 5mph in one of those combustible go-karts, atheist and coward that I am.
I didn't even know I could enjoy F1 until this. I used to watch the races as a kid, and the names still resonate - Senna, Prost, Piquet, Mansell, Berger, and the stalwart lesser lights I only recognised from F1 computer games - but only as background TV. This is fascinating. Prost comes across as the ultimate pragmatist, with some shady backing from Balestre, whereas Senna seems like some kind of slightly lost adventurer. Maybe that's just the choice of music and footage in the film, but I hadn't appreciated him this much before.
Got the DVD for Christmas yesterday so have finally seen it, first thing this morning before anyone else was up. Everything SR and wingco said is spot on; a fantastic film, resonating continuously for me as incidents came up that I remembered, but with sometimes amazingly candid behind-the-scenes footage. The editing is perfect, piecing together multiple footage to create a dramatic narrative. I especially like the absence of a narrator - all that's used is interview and commentary.
Anyone would get something from this; on a sporting, visual, dramatic, human and psychological level it's wonderful and tragic. Knowing what's coming just makes it more so.
As I'm on a bit of a motorsports kick, I got the chance to see this recently.
1) As I wrote on the Bible thread, what is interesting is how religion made its way into Senna and Evander Holyfield's careers at the same time. I was playing goalkeeper at the same time, and I was completely in the same boat in that everything I did was for God, because of God, and with God. Because God was with me, I could push myself, and I had no fear or hesitancy in anything I did. Any save I made was because of God, and any goal scored on me was God's will. It's a very, very powerful feeling, and I've never felt as strong or impenetrable since. Seeing Ayrton Senna pushing himself brought back those same feelings.
2) Don't agree about Prost being portrayed poorly. I felt he came off very well in the film, even if he was the heel. His faith was more similar to what mine is today, kind of "I kind of believe in God, but any guy that hits corners that fast is going to get himself and others killed." He comes off as truly the encapsulation of the phrase "don't hate tha playa, hate tha game."
That said, the bit with 300,000 Brasilians shouting "puta" at him, with his Gallic hunchbacked shoulders moping through the rain with his big nose, couldn't have been any more hilarious.
Because he was honest, because he did what he did and is not ashamed of it, he comes off well.
3) That tv host was Xuxa. She also dated Pele.
4) The ESPN and other interviewees come off very well, and do very well to convey the impact that Senna had on a group of people and how his loss hurt immensely.
Death by a thousand cuts kind of thing. Dad leaving, girlfriend leaving me for best friend, mom dying, getting in car crash that left me unable to move for a few months, losing my home, losing jobs, so on and so forth.
What this film rekindled, and why it really should be shown in seminaries and churches around the world, is how far do you go with faith ? Senna's faith brought him championships. It may have gotten him killed. Prost did not have the same faith, and acted in more worldly ways at times. He won more championships and is able to give interviews 20 years later.