Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sports documentary double bill

Currently, the McLaren Formula One is at the foot of the Championship table with engine problems being the woes that fall upon the team and drivers. So, with the McLaren team is such a dire position it seems ideal to go back to a time when the iconic McLaren name was in the ascendency. Directed by Roger Donaldson, McLaren follows Kiwi racing car driver and designer Bruce McLaren from growing up in his small town in New Zealand to designing World Championship winning racing cars.

Bruce McLaren is painted as a determined, hardworking and talented figure in the world of motorsport, finding success in many different formulas and racing categories. The time he devoted to the sport was so great it must have impacted his family life though the movie does not investigate this. Whilst, a look into the man’s family life may have opened him up on an emotional level (thereby adding more depth to the film) the areas that film does investigate is very interesting even if some understanding of engineering may be required.

Due to the limited resources available (the sport was still in its infancy in the 60s) director Roger Donaldson combines reconstructive footage with archival footage and interviews, this works reasonably well but the reconstructive footage does feel like it served more as padding than anything greatly informative. What’s also interesting to note is how the drivers and mechanics shrugged off the death of fellow racing drivers. This inaction and belief that death was part of the sport contributed significantly to the high number of fatalities in the era. Sadly, however, the film doesn’t go into great depth regarding the effect the high death toll had on Bruce McLaren.

The climax of the documentary is undoubtedly high emotional, but thrills and quality of material available means McLaren isn’t on a par with Senna.


George Best was football’s first celebrity, many dubbed him the Fifth Beetle for his supreme good look and massive female fanbase. Not only was he supremely good looking but he was an incredible football player, one of the best of his generation, a generation that included the likes of Pele and Eusebio. The documentary, simply titled Best, speaks admirably about the talents of George Best, but it’s not a documentary that spends the entire timewaxing lyrically about how the ball was glued to his feet. Instead it’s a very honest and very moving documentary about a sportsman who threw away his talent because of deadly addiction to alcohol. What’s striking is the friends of George Best not only blame the man himself, but themselves, they feel they did not do enough to turn him away from drink.

Comparisons to the Bobby Moore, whose life was also discussed in a documentary could easily be made, and both are refreshingly honest, yet respectful documentaries. George Best is an endlessly fascinating subject, a great talent ruined by drink and a celebrity lifestyle and the film serves as a warning to celebrity culture and the hounding by press and fans. Making use of archival footage and talking heads, the Best documentary lives up to its name becoming one the finest documentaries on the sport. People can chuckle how George Best may have spent his money on booze, birds, fast cars and squandered the rest but it was a lifestyle never made him happy. A sad documentary about a wasted talent.


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