Coming to theatres tomorrow, Wednesday, August 22:
JOHN MCENROE: IN THE REALM OF PERFECTION
Cinema du Reel, Art of the Real, Seattle, deadCenter, Las Vegas, Sydney, Melbourne, New Zealand, Provincetown, Jerusalem, Jeonju
The athlete’s 1984 French Open performance illustrates an essay on the linkage between tennis and cinema.
Though its title might suggest a conventional biographical portrait, Faraut’s unconventional film is anything but. While its titular subject ends up being the project’s focal point, the film signals its unusual approach in its set up, highlighting not McEnroe, but the work of Gil de Kermadec, an instructional filmmaker for France’s Institut National du Sport et de l’Education Physique. Faraut himself has a background at the INSEP, informing this analysis bridging the worlds of sport and cinema. He draws first from de Kermadec’s almost comic how-to-play-tennis films and then from footage of McEnroe on the courts to demonstrate the pro’s unpredictable style and infamous rage. At the same time, the filmmaker, through the playful – sometimes too much so – narration by Mathieu Amalric, builds a not altogether convincing argument about the parallels between filmmaking and tennis, involving meditations on movement, time, perception, and, ultimately, storytelling, with McEnroe in the role of auteur. The culmination is a deep and occasionally repetitive parsing of McEnroe’s legendary disappointment at the finals of the 1984 French Open. While the film’s drollness gives way to pretension at times, there’s a distinct pleasure in witnessing McEnroe’s masterful game from such a hyper-focused perspective, even for non-fans.