Cinema's winning formula
Edward Lawrenson tears himself away from his DVDs long enough to see how the spectacle of sport stands up on the silver screen
To find an answer, I’m spending a Sunday afternoon at the Odeon Covent Garden’s live screening of the Italian Grand Prix. Being wholly ignorant about motor racing, I want to know if I can get the same aesthetic kick from the experience as I would from, say, an Andrei Tarkovsky retrospective. Initial signs are encouraging. There are only four audience members, including a petrol-head friend I brought along. Although this desultory showing is the result of a temporary fault which saw the cinema turn people away, it’s still good news. The best, most demanding arthouse films are always the most sparsely attended; at this showing I’m in for an experience of uncommon artistic rigour. 'Le grand prix. Un film de Formula 1'.
The opening minutes, though, are disappointing: pre-race footage of the drivers, glamorous young women, and balding technical guys milling about in the paddock, typical TV sports coverage that gains nothing from being on the big screen. Where’s the tension, the artistry, the foreshadowing of narrative motifs?
But then the race starts, and the film becomes genuinely exciting. The picture is crisp, bright and smooth, far more vivid than any TV clips. But it's the noise of the cars, a cloud of mosquitoes amplified to thunderous cinema-surround levels that gets me. Watching these sleek machines charge round the track to a soundtrack turned up to 11 jump-starts the adrenaline levels; and it makes me change my expectations.
This is nothing like a film by Tarkovsky. Hot damn! This is a freakin’ Michael Bay movie. ‘Transformers’ wimps out by comparison.
The Michael Bay parallels only intensify when we have the good luck to witness David Coulthard crash. There's smoke, a burst tyre, bits of the car everywhere: it's spectacular. The guilt I feel at cheering this accident (Coulthard was fine) is only partly assuaged by the fact that the noise of the cars drowns out my spontaneous woop. Anyhow I blame Michael Bay and his ilk for desensitising me to real life.
This crash proves a highlight, and by the twentieth lap I'm beginning to tire. Even Michael Bay’s films surrender to the tug of narrative, and so it is that I start to ask my friend about the fundamentals of Formula 1. Following a hurried primer, the experience acquires a different resonance. I start to appreciate the expert driving of race leader Fernando Alonso. And when the front-lift jack gets stuck under Robert Kubica’s BMW during a pit-stop it is a moment of high tension. In short, for the final 30 minutes of the Grand Prix, this movie buff became a sports fan.
Would this transformation have happened if I’d watched at home on ITV1? I doubt it. There’s something thrilling and intense about these big-screen transmissions. Even this socially maladjusted, physically enfeebled, daylight-deprived movie buff had fun.
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’