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OSCAR NOMINATIONS have been announced for 2013, so here’s our own look at movies celebrating enthusiast cars, sports cars, auto racing and related passions. This list is in no sense exhaustive (a little automotive humor here; very little). Rather, these are movies I’ve actually seen—and some, even enjoyed.
A Man and a Woman, Un Homme et une Femme, 1966. A widower-meets-widow drama/romance en français, where the actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, happens to be the nephew of late renowned race driver and vintner Maurice Trintignant. In the flick, Jean-Louis is a race/rally driver, competing in the Monte Carlo Rally in a Ford Mustang. (Ford ran teams there in the mid-1960s.) A sweet movie.
Driven, 2001. Sly Stallone’s take on the millennium CART/Formula 1 scene. Despite its emotionally-scarred-by-earlier-accident schmaltz (didn’t Elvis cap all in Viva Las Vegas?), this movie isn’t as bad as some say. One character is a pretty good Mika Häkkinen. And the 360 in the tunnel is neat.
Genevieve, 1953. Two ever-so-English pairs take part in the London-to-Brighton Run. The guys are good friends, but old jealousies set them to a wager about who’ll get back to London first. The one fellow’s new girlfriend is baffled by it all; the other’s long-suffering wife has seen it all before. Gentle Fifties fun with Edwardian motors; my favorite car flick.
Grand Prix, 1966. Director John Frankenheimer’s tribute to mid-1960s Formula 1, even to enlisting the Hills, Phil and Graham (not related) in cameo roles. Actor Brian Bedford does a really good Jimmy Clark. And I love the opening mosaic sequence. Whenever I see Grand Prix, though, I think it’s longer than its 176 minutes.
Johnny Dark, 1954. Fifties sports cars (starring a Woodill Wildfire!) racing on southern California roads in full color. Tony Curtis is the lead in a flick that won’t displace Un Homme et une Femme as drama/romance. But it’s fun to seek out local landmarks. There’s a YouTube sample at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p20hRWSfgMU.
Le Mans, 1971. Steve McQueen is cool personified. And this is almost a documentary of Le Mans in the 1970s. Forgive me, but it still reminds me of that Monty Python sex-education bit where the public-school headmaster and his wife demonstrate matters to a classroom of bored, fidgety boys.
Senna, 2010. A stunningly well-executed documentary of Ayrton Senna. It’s astounding that this was assembled from primary sources more than 15 years after his death. A powerful, wonderful tribute.
The Devil’s Hairpin, 1957. Directed by and starring Cornel Wilde, this is another emotionally-scarred-by-earlier-accident schmaltz. It likely used the same roads and cars as Johnny Dark, but the cinematography isn’t as good and the chemistry never really materializes between Wilde and Jean Wallace (the flick’s love interest; his real-time wife).
The Great Race, 1965. A bit of froth with plenty of Hollywood stars (including Tony Curtis again). Not quite as entertaining as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, a contemporary flick produced in England.
The Racers, 1955. The first in a lineage of Grand Prix and Driven. This one has Kirk Douglas as a Milanese (?!) and especially ludicrous dialogue (“Don’t worry, Gino. He was dead before you hit him.”). But it’s saved by color photography from European racing in the Fifties. Laugh at the wheel-churning close-ups and savor the long shots.
What about your favorites? ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013