Directors: Frank Simon, Roman Polanski
Synopsis: An intimate look at Jackie Stewart’s weekend at the 1971 Monaco Grand Prix – now with an extended one-on-one interview between Jackie Stewart and Roman Polanski.
A tough sell for any one not interested in motor racing or Roman Polanski, Weekend of a Champion just seems like a fly-on-the-wall documentary following one major racer – Jackie Stewart. Nevertheless, only the most cynical will see nothing past the subject focus; for anyone else, this is a fantastic insight into a person’s career.
Only running at 93 minutes (with at least 20 minutes devoted to Stewart and Polanski’s recent discussion on the film), the film is not too taxing for those perhaps not familiar or intrigued by the focal point. However much or little appeal you have for Formula One, this documentary succeeds in not exploring the sport in general, but just one man’s abilities. Stewart, followed by Frank Simon and Polanski’s camera, is generously open as the filmmakers record his every utterance and movement. Relaxed by the years of celebrity, Stewart speaks his mind (poles apart from the contemporary stars wary of the reporter), never shying away.
Stewart’s confidence around the camera leaves us with a dynamic commentary as he explains how he goes about racing. One scene has us planted in the passenger seat of Stewart’s car, leisurely taking us through the track and his machinations. Explaining the gear changes, the shape of the road, the tyre traction (and even more manoeuvres) may sound tiresome to the non-F1 crowd, racing-specific as it is. Nothing could be further from the truth though – understanding what makes a person the best at what they do, whatever the discipline, has enormous merit.
Other scenes continue in this vein, whilst some merely show Stewart chitchatting with friends and colleagues. It begins strongly with the run-through of the track, and ends with a terrific run-through of the documentary itself. Roman Polanski and Jackie Stewart are shown sitting in the same room of the same Monaco hotel, reviewing what they’ve just watched and also their lives. Time has given both men mature and impressive ruminations on not only the film but how they’ve lived. It’s engaging to see two brilliant minds casually discussing a larger-than-life existence.
By the end, you are educated on a specific expertise, the culture of the 1970s and, to finish, two men’s exceptional lives. The restored Weekend of a Champion is much more than a F1 film; it’s a rewarding study of professionals in their respective fields.
Also posted on LiveForFilms