The Brazilian-born racecar driver Ayrton Senna was a phenomenon. And as such, he was filmed, interviewed, and photographed repeatedly throughout his career, images now assembled as the documentary Senna. Available for iTunes rental now via FilmBuff, Asif Kapadia’s film is phenomenal in its own way, as it cuts together multiple images of Senna, under a series of interviews with those individuals who knew and observed him. The documentary’s brilliance lies in its mix of then and now, both haunting and immediate. In part, this effect is a function of Senna’s own story: his life was famously cut short when in 1994, when his car crashed during Italy’s San Marino Grand Prix. But it’s also produced in the texture of the documentary, the grainy TV clips, the point-of-view driving shots, the footage of drivers, crewmembers, and journalists at work and on display. There’s not a moment of the film that feels staged, but of course, that’s the ingenious fiction of celebrity: by turns thoughtful and frustrated, generous and arrogant, Senna appears here always past and ever present, an image constructed out of dreams and needs, an image that’s simultaneously made up and sincere, abstract and irresistible, history and myth.
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