(2020) Documentary (Vision) Nick Mason, Sterling Moss, John Surtees, Alfieri Maserati, Adolfo Orsi Jr., Giorgietto Gugiaro, Carlo Maserati, Harald J. Wester, David M. Williamson (narrator), Paolo Pininfarina, Nino Vaccorella, Alexander Fyshe, Bruco Male, Doug Magnon, Matteo Panini, Andrea Bertolini. Directed by Philip Selkirk
If you want to talk about successful branding, you have to talk about Maserati. The car company has come to symbolize sports car performance and luxurious elegance at once. Nothing quite says “you made it” like owning a Maserati…except owning a fleet of them.
This documentary feels less of a labor of love than corporate training film, something you would show to salesmen on the showroom floor on their first day of employment. It looks at the history of the company, starting out with their 1914 founding by four Italian brothers, only three of whom survived to lead the company into becoming one of auto racing’s most prestigious names. It wasn’t until industrialist Adolfo Orsi bought the company that they started manufacturing cars for consumer use.
Their early race cars were primitive affairs but gradually, the innovative Maserati brothers developed engines that would hurtle their vehicles at unheard-of speeds. An interesting fun fact; the chassis of their cars have never been designed in-house; Maserati has always relied on outsourcing design to independent car designers. It is a strategy that has served them well.
As the title implies, the company didn’t have an easy path to success. Financial woes and changing tastes put the company on the brink of bankruptcy a good half a dozen times, but they always seemed to rebound at the last moment and find an investor to lift them out of their doldrums, or a new design that takes the world by storm.
This is absolutely going to appeal to car enthusiasts, and for them this ought to be required viewing. The film is heavy on technical specs for the various engines and cars, and those who understand the minutiae of performance car engines will likely be sucked in. The movie is a little light on the human side of things; at one point, Maserati dropped out of auto racing because of a tragedy involving a Ferrari vehicle careening into a crowd and killing ten spectators, including four children. The incident, which deeply affected the company, is literally glossed over, mentioned in passing and the ramifications left unexplored.
It is also worth noting that of all the talking heads interviewed, not one is female which I suppose is meant to appeal to a certain audience but certainly ignores the fact that there are female auto racers, female car enthusiasts, female designers and female automotive executives. That’s a little troubling. Some of the interviewees are delightful; Formula One racing legend John Surtees and Sterling Moss, one of the greatest of all time, are entertaining storytellers; Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, one of the most intense Maserati lovers in Christendom, also talks lovingly about the cars and what they mean. Surprising to me, former company CEO Harald Wester is articulate and informative about the corporate aspect of the company.
This isn’t for everyone, but for those that the film is meant for it is a very rewarding experience. From the nearly century-old racing footage to the footage of the introduction of the Maserati Alfieri, one of their more recent models, there is plenty for those who delight to the sound of an engine revving to sink their teeth into.
REASONS TO SEE: Will certainly appeal to car enthusiasts.
REASONS TO AVOID: Very much a niche film.
FAMILY VALUES: Suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The filmmakers secured the cooperation of the Maserati corporation and was given extensive use of their archives.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play, Microsoft
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/12/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Racing Scene
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
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