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At first glance, The Last Race would appear to look at the origins of auto racing in the 20th century for outsiders like myself, but when you get into the weeds of it, the story, characters and storytelling has an Errol Morris type of flavor to it (appropriate given the location), looking at a topic that few would have thought to consider, letting it flow organically and with minimal interruption, and is a nice surprise.
In Michael Dweck's feature-film debut, he looks at Riverhead Raceway, a modest race oval stretch in Long Island. Open for almost 70 years, its owners are Connie and Eddie Partridge, a couple in their 80s who have repeatedly fended off offers to sell the track so that the races can continue. The Partridges are interviewed, along with some drivers and fans of the races as they talk about what it means to them. On the other side, various land developers discuss their attempts to buy the track (it's noted in the end credits the land is worth more than $10 million) and their outlook on the quest, one going so far as to say they're happy waiting out Connie and Eddie before their children buy and sell the track to them, as they admit on a golf course.
Dweck has no narration in the film, focusing on the driving and racing with lots of cameras placed in and around the cars to show how primal the experiences can be; several races end in fights between drivers and fans. By contrast, the Partridges talk about the sport a little more romantically, and when the two converge you understand the attraction for drivers of all ages to participate. A fan who records the races for drivers shows off in front of the camera and hands the drivers a DVD only to reclaim it moments later in a poignant note. He enjoys it and wants to help the drivers out but at the end of the day his resources are those the track kind of has, and it's funny and a little sad at the same time.
At 75 minutes, Dweck seems to know his material and making it much longer tends to belabor the story and miss the experience. It's also symbolic of the track and characters themselves; an experience not many know but have been made aware of now. It's time in and out of our lives amounts to a couple of laps around the track, and it's easy to see why people flock to it to watch or participate in the races. And in The Last Race Dweck appeals more to the senses and it's an effective, beneficial choice.The Disc:
Save for brief moments of newsreel footage, everything is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks good. The cameras on and in the cars look natural and sharp with every crack and crag of the racetrack showing off from the wider shots. Colors are natural and the image lacks artifacts and doesn't have any prolonged haloing to speak of.The Sound:
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it does the part, particularly when you're in the shots of the cars and you see just how loud some of the action is and some of the crashes and clashes occur. In the interview segments, dialogue sounds good and the overall film presents more power and immersion than you'd expect, and is good to listen to.The Extras:
There is some additional footage (19:49) that include more driver skirmishes, interviews and other topics that didn't make the final cut, and a trailer to the film (1:58) along with several other Magnolia features.Final Thoughts:
The Last Race casts a light on a subject we weren't familiar with before and get a deeper appreciation of at the end of the day, using the nuances of auto racing to do it and make the people more relatable and empathetic. Technically the disc is fine and the bonus material is brief but without complaint. Worth a look if it pops up on your desired viewing medium of choice.