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John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

L’Empire de la perfection

Mastery, showmanship and the art of filming tennis are laid bare in an entertaining, innovative archive documentary that’s like no sports film you’ve seen.

Dir-Scr Julien Faraut
Prod William Jéhannin, Raphaëlle Delauche
France
2018
95min
Sales Film Constellation

In his prime, tennis champion John McEnroe was legendary not only for his brilliance but also for his petulance, tending to use the court as a personal stage for his displays of unrestrained self. With narration by Mathieu Amalric, Julien Faraut’s film uses footage of McEnroe – pitted against Ivan Lendl in 1984 – and examines the player’s relationship to the camera, which McEnroe treats at once as an additional opponent and as a supporting actor in his personal psychodrama. But this is also a testament to filmmaker Gil de Kermadec, whose career recording the game was itself a devoted pursuit of the ineffable. Even if you’re not a tennis lover, Faraut has created a fascinating essay on film, spectatorship and, yes, the meaning of perfection.

Jonathan Romney

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