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‘Weekend of a Champion’ review: Roman Polanski’s latest takes us on and off the track 40 years Later

Recently two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard takes the daunting task of covering the nearly decade-long rival between British Formula 1 racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austria’s Niki Lauda’s (Daniel Brühl) race to become world champions. It seems that racing movies are on the front burner — from the docu Senna, the story of Senna’s life, is actually a classic tragedy of ancient dramatic proportions, to the Ron Howard-directed Rush, which found critical praise but couldn’t generate much horsepower at the box office when it hit the big screen at the end of September. The film “Weekend of a Champion,” is an amazing documentary film produced by Roman Polanski and restored by Brett Ratner filled with realism about racing driver Jackie Stewart which brings us an intriguing insight into the glamour of the motor sport of 40 years ago.

Weekend of a Champion

Jackie Stewart and Roman Polanski

Having had its world premiere at the 1972 Berlin International Film Festival, the lost film, WEEKEND OF A CHAMPION, finally re-emerged at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Frank Simon in 1971, notorious filmmaker and motor racing enthusiast Roman Polanski spent a weekend with world champion driver Sir Jackie Stewart as he attempted to win the Monaco Grand Prix. Roman Polanski’s who believes that cinema is an art-form produced an up-close-and-personal documentary about a man, Jackie Stewart, who he admired as being a fan of motor racing and spent a weekend filming his performance in the Monaco grand prix over one rainy weekend.

Weekend of a Champion

Jackie and Helen Stewart

As a filmmaker myself, I am inspired by the cinematic wonder and a fan of old films that have been lost and restored. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, the 1974 film by Ted Kotcheff based on the book by Mordecai Richler that also screened at Cannes Film Festival in France as part of its classics selection for 2013. It took nearly 40 years, but Canadian film classic The Apprenticeships of Duddy Kravitz finally viewed at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Next the film, Wake in Fright , also directed by Ted Kotcheff, is one of a kind. It is one of only two movies to hold the “Cannes Classic” distinction. 40 years after its first showing it has garnered rapturous press and all parties concerned are extremely excited to be bringing it back to New York and LA – in short it is rolling.

Polanski’s film, “Weekend of a Champion” restored and shown at the Cannes film festival with great success. Polanski additional ending to the film was totally amazing, in which the present-day Polanski and Stewart do a sit down in the same Monte Carlo hotel suite where Stewart stayed at the time and shared great insight about their movie, and the way in which motor-racing has changed. The film was breathtaking showing some intense scenes of Sir Jackie Stewart fatal accidents of his closest friends will leave you speechless. Stewart explains in a deep subject at the very end of the film how very dangerous it was during his generation of racing by showing the kind of horrific accidents, which Stewart was spared, and talking about the safety measures he helped to introduce. Polanski emotions are captured on camera and you will be able to witness by Polanki’s attempt to ask Stewart about the possibly of dying in a horrendous fireball in 1971, just as he was climbing into his car.

Weekend of a Champion

Jackie Stewart

There is some fascination in the film for a few brief scenes in the glamour of the Cote d’Azur at the grand prix, and it is fun to see Princess Grace, along with Ringo Starr and Joan Collins. This film, which Submarine Deluxe acquired the U.S. distrbution rights, depicts some real archival value as the director, Frank Simon, follows Polanski and Stewart and does an amazing job capturing the two having a deep connection in the view of this high-risk, high-octane sport during its lethally dangerous period. I was very intrigued how Stewart, a legendary sportsman seen at the very top of his game seems with no ego and comes across just a down-to-earth guy. A scene that proves this is when Polanski’s camera captures Stewart in a relaxed state in mind lounging around in his hotel suite in his underpants.

The director Simon was able to capture Stewart’s determination both on the track and off explaining to Polanski his theory how drivers must be “slow” in order to win the race: that is, they must brake and accelerate gradually and not fight with the car but treat it like a marriage. Stewart incidentally uses the interesting term “quick” to describe a naturally gifted driver: not flashily “fast”, but “quick”, with the instinctive competitor’s knack of getting from A to B with the least possible effort.

Sir Jackie Stewart and Helen Stewart

Sir Jackie Stewart and Helen Stewart

Weekend of a Champion” is a true exciting documentary drama, that is certainly watchable and mostly enjoyable, and puts you in the driver seat of this well impeccably crafted Formula 1 race car, fast, glistening with style but ultimately just a cold piece of polished metal. [A pure racing rush!]

“It’s an honor and a thrill to be working with Roman Polanski, Jackie Stewart and Brett Ratner to bring ‘Weekend of a Champion‘ to a U.S. audience. This is an exciting and thought provoking film that should reach beyond the base of racing and cinema fans,” said Submarine’s Dan Braun.

Presented by RatPac Entertainment’s documentary arm Rat Documentary Films, who first acquired and restored the film will also be released later on Netflix after its theartical run.

Submarine Deluxe will release the film theatrically accroos the country beginning November 22nd in NYC, with a nationwide rollout to follow.

Check out the trailer:

Weekend Of A Champion – Exclusive TIFF Trailer


Antonio Saillant is the National Art and Film Industry Writer for Angel Light Entertainment!

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About Angel Light Pictures Entertainment Group

Angel Light Pictures Entertainment Group has a vision and passion to creating energy efficiency in movies and television. As one of the most outspoken “green” professionals in New York City and Hollywood, I am proactive in the area of energy conservation and in helping television and movie industry colleagues push their initiatives forward with green outcomes, production and results. In my career, I have previously saved energy and dollars across industries for hospital systems and universities (Columbia and NYU), pharmaceuticals and major businesses in New York City and New Jersey, including Radio City Music Hall, the old Yankee Stadium, The Hebrew Home of the Age and The Jewish Home Lifecare in New York. In the past decade, I’ve combined my knowledge of the energy business with the entertainment industry in hope of contributing to a green planet. With sustainable solutions for our planet, my Green Angel Company is committed to demonstrating that the movie and television industry can be responsible, using tactics and strategies for green energy. In my career, I have provided hundreds of clients with energy and sustainable solutions, regarding the perceptions, barriers and opportunities for energy efficiency and I will continue to do so. Saillant will be directing a documentary on The Legendary Canadian Hollywood Director, Ted Kotcheff. www.angellightgroup.com

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