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“Senna,” Reviewed

“Senna,” Reviewed (photo)

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There’s some poetic justice in the fact that it takes at least a half-hour, if at all, into “Senna” to realize director Asif Kapadia is only going to use archival footage to tell the story of the legendary Formula One driver since of course Ayrton Senna’s own feats on the racetrack were always best appreciated when he was miles ahead. It’s one of the many ways that the doc is modeled after Senna’s approach to driving — Kapadia’s film is relentless, occasionally idiosyncratic and bound to be wildly popular as it commemorates one of Brazil’s most celebrated exports.

However, “Senna” is an interesting biography not only because it limits itself to 15,000 hours of video already on record with interviews sporadically used as voiceover throughout, but also since it is far less about the man than the driver, which expands its entertainment value considerably while marginalizing in some sense the actual amount you learn about the title character. There are bits and pieces about his personal life, highlighted by clips of him on yachts or motorcycling with a new girlfriend, his charity work for his home country (alluded to with a tossed off mention by his sister and a card in the end credits about its success), or allusions to his strong religious beliefs, but for the most part, the film shares the same view as Senna did behind the wheel, with only the asphalt in front of him.

Indeed, that might be the most accurate way to tell Senna’s life story since his commitment to racing is unquestioned. We’re first introduced to the driver as a teen in a speed suit and a bright yellow helmet, racing around a track in a go-kart and talking over the clip about “pure racing [when there was] never any politics.” As we soon find out, politics were just about the only thing that could beat Senna after he entered Formula One and became an instant sensation. And the other, Senna’s great rival, the French driver Alain Prost, is what really gives the film its drive.

Racing fans are already familiar with the impact of Senna’s sparring with Prost had on the sport’s popularity during the mid to late ’80s and for the film, it conveniently provides an enemy to root against, even if you’re completely uninterested in Formula One. Known as “the professor” for his extensive planning and shrewd politicking of race officials, Prost is quickly established as Senna’s opposite, whether it was in the measured way he raced or, as is pointed out in parallel clips, his lack of game with the ladies as demonstrated by his come-ons to a BBC reporter that come off a bit lecherous when compared with Senna’s innocent flirtations with a Japanese reporter. (That the two are eventually paired on the same McLaren racing team only further fuels their rivalry.)

Kapadia, whose previous experience as a director has largely been with narrative features like the sumptuous epic “The Warrior” and the forgettable Sarah Michelle Gellar thriller “The Return,” isn’t exactly subtle in how he forecasts the ways he’s going to please his audience, either. But “Senna” is so well-crafted, from its emotionally wrenching bookends to the seamless way the film simplifies the unexpectedly byzantine backroom machinations of the sport that the driver was so frustrated by (many of which are caught with almost shocking fly-on-the-wall footage), it’s hard to argue the director and a team of editors hasn’t achieved the closest approximation of Senna’s dream of “pure racing” onscreen.

Speed nuts will definitely be wowed by the over-the-shoulder shots of Senna cruising on an open track at a velocity unknown to most mere mortals, but it’s the film’s ability to move in other ways that make it a special film for all audiences.

“Senna” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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