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Formula I drivers compete to be the best in this slam-you-into-the-driver’s seat tale of speed, spectacle and intertwined personal lives. John Frankenheimer (who 32 years later would again stomp the pedal to the metal for the car chases of Ronin) directs this winner of 3 Academy Awards,* crafting split-screen images to capture the overlapping drama and orchestrating you-are-there POV camerawork to intensify the hard-driving thrills. Nearly 30 top drivers take part in the excitement. Buckle up to race with the best.
Light on story, this 1966 spectacle directed by John Frankenheimer was shot in 70 millimeter, with a cinematically enthralling emphasis on unique, visceral new ways of capturing the sensations of a car race. James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, and Toshiro Mifune are part of the stellar, international cast whose characters plod through assorted relationship and business conflicts. But the film's real hook is the thrilling and inventive means by which Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) brings an urgency to the drama happening on the racetrack. A true master of the plastic techniques of obtaining and cutting kinetic footage, Frankenheimer offers more than a joyride to viewers: he makes action part of the compelling language of stories. Cameras are strapped to vehicles as they round the track, shots are taken from a helicopter, the screen is split between angles for maximum impact--even if Grand Prix doesn't rank among the director's best character-driven stories, it is certainly driven on its own terms. --Tom Keogh
Pushing the Limit: The Making of Grand Prix
Flat Out: Formula One in the Sixties
The Style and Sound of Speed
Brands Hatch: Chasing the Checkered Flag
Grand Prix: Challenge of the Champions
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So, why only 3 stars? Because it's pan-and-scan! I thought it didn't look quite right first time a watched it, so I pulled out my old laser disc version. The laser disc is 3.0 aspect - the DVD and Blu-Ray are 2.2 aspect ratio. Unforgivable - over a quarter of the movie is cropped. That's also why I bought the Blu-Ray when I already had the DVD - I figured they'd give me the entire movie on Blu-Ray, I thought wrong...
When this movie was still in production they showed the racing footage that had already been completed to Ferrari and they were so impressed by what they saw that they invited the the filmmakers to shoot inside the Ferrari racing factory (up until that time nobody--not even Sports Illustrated--had been allowed to photograph the inside of that building). Quite a compliment!
Steve McQueen was offered James Garners role first and turned it down thinking this was going to be just another Hollywood racing picture in which (like all that had preceded it) nothing bore any resemblance to the REAL racing world. Once the film came out and he had a chance to see it, he was heartbroken that he'd passed on it and in his frustration went on to make the practically ALL racing footage and less-plot-than-it-would-take-to-fill-a-thimble "Le Mans".
A bevy of top professional drivers were employed to train the actors so that they would look convincingly like real race car drivers while being filmed. James Garner was coached by Dan Gurney and had such an natural affinity for driving that by the time his sequences were filmed he was on a level with some of the drivers making a living at it professionally. Gurney said that if he was willing to do it full time he could have been one of the top drivers in the field.
As a movie itself, if you like melodrama you will more than likely be entertained. If you don't, but you love fantastic racing footage, this is one of the finest examples of that which you will ever be likely to find. If neither interests you, this may not be your cup of tea.
This is what movies should be.
The extras are actually worth watching, too. Loved James Garner telling off that person stopping the production by demanding more money!
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Good 70mm film format.Read more