Italian filmmaker Andrea Marini and ex-Formula 1 driver Paolo Barilla have achieved something truly remarkable with their documentary “Ferrari 312B,” which makes its U.S. debut in theaters on Friday, Nov. 17.
The former Minardi pilot, along with Marini and director of photography Emanuele Zarlenga, have taken the restoration of Barilla’s 1970 Ferrari 312B F1 car and turned it into a lavish production where the cinematography and ambient impact of the flat-12 motor stand atop most of the recent racing documentaries.
Filmed over two years, the meticulous revival of the 312B and the overarching plan for the Barilla pasta heir to debut the iconic Ferrari at the 2016 Monaco Historic Grand Prix make for intimate viewing. With the 312B cast as the movie’s hero, the counterbalance is provided by the car’s designer and engineer, Mauro Forghieri.
As a man in a constant state of agitation – always ready to berate those who lack his experience, Forghieri’s overbearing ways wander between the halls of perfectionism and narcissism as the 312B reveals itself to be a finicky central character.
Unlike so many of its contemporaries, the 312B documentary avoids the pitfall of clinging to a predetermined narrative. Luxurious footage from the 1970 F1 season is interwoven throughout, and modern interviews with the stars of the era – Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, and Jackie Stewart – lend context to the car’s transformative powers for Ferrari.
The efforts to ready the car for Barilla at Monaco, shown with great honesty, is less than flattering in some instances, and it’s there where the heart of 312B is found. Faced with production choices, an editor could have been instructed to cleave the bad and amplify the good to paint a false portrait of the project. Letting the tale breathe and exist for what it was, all while showering the audience with unforgettable imagery and audio, is the film’s lasting gift.
The only serious misstep in “312B” is saved, unfortunately, for the end. Marini makes the cardinal sin of adding music to the in-car and tracking footage of the Ferrari as it laps Monza. With the flat-12 desperate to have its song heard, killing the incredibly loud music that ruins the experience would be a welcome adjustment once it reaches Blu-ray.