Senna and Point Blank

Here’s a couple of movies I got to over the weekend, but didn’t have time to post till now.

First up is the terrific Senna, directed by first-time documentary film-maker Asif Kapadia. If, like me, you know absolutely nothing about Formula 1 (or any sport really for that matter) don’t be put off – this is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Senna’s story is structured like a fiction film; in that Kapadia, his writer and editors give us a good old-fashioned start, middle and end. We even get a charismatic, dashing leading man in the form of Senna himself, naturally enough.  We learn of Senna’s initial go-karting passion, his entry into the high-powered world of motor sport, his early successes, his move into bigger and better teams (with more money and clout behind him) and his final ascension into the upper echelons of Formula 1 racing.

It plays out at times like a thriller; Senna is cast as our hero whose rise is routinely thwarted by insider game-playing and political intrigue, overseen by the shady figure of FISA head Jean-Marie Balestre in his dark glasses and leather jacket. Senna’s F1 rival and team-mate Alain Prost is cast as the not so good-looking, and less talented villain. As you’d expect with a subject matter like F1, the film moves along at a terrific pace and is notable for being made up entirely of archive footage – no talking heads, no current context, just clips from a variety of sources. And it’s that variety of astonishing clips that really gives the film an almost timeless feel. Highly recommended. Trailer here.

Speaking of fast-paced, good old-fashioned storytelling: Fred Cavaye’s Point Blank (A Bout Portant) brings us back to the familiar territory he established with his last film, Pour Elle (Anything For Her).  In that film his school-teacher lead character was tasked with breaking his wife out of prison (as you do); in this one our main man’s heavily pregnant wife is kidnapped by baddies and he only has to go in and rescue her. Sheesh, as if expecting a baby isn’t traumatic enough.

Gilles Lellouche is our rumpled-looking Everyman this time out. He plays Samuel Pierret, the expectant father and a nurse at the city’s main hospital. He’s on duty when the victim of a shooting is brought in. Someone wants to finish the job though but is foiled by Samuel who stops the killer and heroically saves the victim. Turns out the victim is criminal safe-cracker Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem) whose henchmen want him out of the hospital and harm’s way.  Next thing we know, Samuel’s wife is kidnapped by Sartet’s gang; Samuel is forced to get him out of hospital and deliver him to his gang in return for the safe delivery (pardon the pun) of his wife, or else. Gulp.

What follows, naturally enough, are lots of frenetic chases through Parisian streets, apartments, metro stations, police stations and whatever you’re having yourself. Cavaye keeps the pedal to the metal as he chucks his hero into all manner of mad, bad and dangerous situations. Naturally the two form a sort of bond, with Samuel becoming a fugitive suspect himself for springing the criminal and going on the run. The plot thickens with Sartet linked to the murder of a shady businessman, and the introduction of two competing police inspectors both pursuing the case for very different reasons.

Citizen Kane this ain’t, but it is a highly enjoyable, fun movie which nods to Hitchcock and features some wonderful edge of the seat action sequences. Cavaye is in firm control at all times and builds the action to the final climactic sequence, which thrillingly, takes place in a police station. All this in well under 90 minutes too. Marvellous.

Watch the trailer here.

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