Weekend of a Champion, directed by Frank Simon and Roman Polanski
DVD, 93 minutes
© 2013, Madman Entertainment

 

The restoration of the 1972 documentary about Jackie Stewart’s Monaco Grand Prix of the same year gives Formula 1 fans another unique insight into the spectacle and glamour of the sport in the 1970s. While it was actually the first of the 1970s era Formula 1 films – coming ahead of the more recent release of RUSH and 1: Life on the Limit – it remains a classic and enthralling look into the inner workings of the sport.

The pairing of Stewart and Polanski – admittedly before the controversy that has dogged the director to this day – is certainly an unlikely one. It’s an unusual juxtaposition to say the least, but Polanski (aided by the film’s principal director, Frank Simon) does well to remain largely in the background, quietly coaxing the film’s star into the spotlight.

Stewart, of course, needs little coaxing. Those who have the privilege of knowing him today will see the same man in 1972: a sporting legend unfettered by complication and ego. He’s blissfully unaware of the intrusion of the film’s cameras, lazing about in his Y-fronts over croissants and tea while explaining his theory for success around Monaco: to be ‘slow’ without fighting the car, getting through each corner with the least effort possible.

Given the film’s high-speed subject, it’s a very different viewing experience when compared with the likes of 1: Life on the Limit or Senna: its pacing is very slow, as the film focuses on Stewart the driver rather than the driving Stewart.

His wife, Helen, also features prominently, quietly supporting her husband and the other drivers’ wives. A poignant cameo is also made by Nina Rindt – wife of Jochen, killed en route to claiming the Drivers’ Championship title the year before – whose silent grief is still clearly etched on her face.

Stewart’s dashing teammate François Cevert is also in the film, and his presence is equally sad given the tragic fate that would befall him just 18 months later at Watkins Glen.

Despite the ever-present spectre of death in the sport, Weekend of a Champion was made prior to Stewart’s safety crusade getting into full swing, although many of his contemporaries had already succumbed, giving the ultimate sacrifice in their quest for the ultimate prize. Stewart’s interest in improving driver safety was apparent in his conversations with Polanski, although the film only really tackles the dangers of the sport right at its end – it’s hardly a topic one could cover in detail on the eve of a driver getting into a car to go racing.

The re-release of the film for last year’s Cannes Film Festival – and subsequently worldwide on DVD – has seen the film digitally remastered, while an extra ten-minute coda has been added: Stewart and Polanski meet in the same hotel suite and discuss how the sport has changed in the subsequent forty years, particularly the safety measures introduced which have spared many drivers’ lives.

While very different in the tone, pace and feel of more recently released F1 films, Weekend of a Champion remains a ‘must see’ for all Formula 1 fans.

Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we will award Weekend of a Champion…

Four FlagsOUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.

Weekend of a Champion is available for sale at all major DVD retailers. Our review copy was kindly provided to us by Madman Entertainment.


Enter our ‘Weekend of a Champion’ Giveaway!

To celebrate the Australian retail release of Weekend of a Champion, our friends from Madman Entertainment have teamed up with us to give away three DVD copies of the movie to our Australian readers!

Entering our competition is simple:

The fine print:

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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