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Ayrton Senna

“SENNA” My rating: B (Opening Sept. 16 at the Tivoli)

106 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Nearly two decades after his death the short, colorful racing career of Brazilian Ayrton Senna somehow seems bigger than ever. Especially now that we have “Senna,” an exciting (if hagiographic) documentary biography from ESPN Films.

Asif Kapadia’s movie is remarkable in that it relies exclusively on vintage footage — races, press conferences, interviews, home movies — to tell the story of the handsome kid who went from go-kart racing to winning Formula One championships. The only “new” stuff here are some recent sound bites from figures in Senna’s life.

“Senna” is a small masterpiece of archival editing.

The story is presented chronologically in no-nonsense fashion. We see Senna’s rise in the racing world, his partnership and eventual falling-out with team member (and fierce rival) Alain Prost and his run-ins with racing officials. (Senna is presented as a “pure” racer ill at ease with the politics and backroom scheming that found its way into the sport.)

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