'Senna' Captures Racing Legend's Personality

Brazil's Ayrton Senna was the boy genius of Formula One racing. He won three world championships before he died in a crash in 1994 at age 34.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now to a film about car racing's most legendary maverick. If you know who Aryton Senna is, this is the film for you. If you don't, Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says "Senna" is the perfect vehicle to find out.

KENNETH TURAN: This is a documentary with the pace of a thriller, a story of motors and machines that is compelling because of the human story it tells.�

Brazil's Aryton Senna was the boy genius of Formula One racing, winner of three world championships before dying in a crash in 1994 at age 34 - a driver current and former Formula One racers recently voted the greatest who ever lived.

(Soundbite of movie, "Senna")

Unidentified Man #1: How do you feel about being world champion?

Unidentified Man #2: It's not a bad feeling at all, is it?

TURAN: More than anything, Senna was a driver who wouldn't play the game, who loathed the politics he felt he saw all around him.

(Soundbite of movie, "Senna")

Unidentified Man #3: He loved driving. He knew racing. And that makes me happy.

TURAN: The game playing started with his first significant race, the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, where Senna, described as a genius in the rain, came from 13th place to just about win the race before a controversial maneuver gave it to France's Alain Prost.�

(Soundbite of movie, "Senna")

Unidentified Man #4: Senna - and Prost takes the lead. Senna is trying to go through on the inside. (Unintelligible)...

TURAN: Prost turned out to be Senna's bete noir. The savage rivalry between them is something to behold.

But if all Senna could do was race, this wouldn't be much of a film. Though Senna drove like the devil, he was a spiritual person who believed deeply and profoundly in a higher power. A philosophical mystic with a jewel thief's nerves and a poet's sensitivity - and killer good looks - Senna was an altogether remarkable human being.

(Soundbite of cheering)

"Senna" is that rare documentary where we see nothing but archival footage. People talk about him, but you only hear them in voiceover.�The filmmakers had 5,000 hours of footage from 10 countries to choose from. This included intimate home movies, shots taken inside Senna's car while he was driving, and riveting footage of frequently tempestuous drivers-only meetings held before each race.�

Aryton Senna was such an innately dramatic personality that every race he took part in seems like the most intense possible. Until we see the next one. Such is the power of this man and this film.�

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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