John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

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France | 2018 | 95 minutes | Julien Faraut

Julien Faraut, curator of the French Sport Institute's 16mm archival film collection, compiles an elegant and playful film essay of tennis legend John McEnroe at the height of his career, chronicling the world champion's fierce drive for perfection in the buildup to the 1984 Roland-Garros French Open.

John McEnroe was at the height of his career when he competed in the finals of the 1984 French Open. This "instructional film meets Andy Warhol screen test" captures not only his tennis form, but also his explosive attitude. The footage comes from the archives of Gil de Kermadec, who began by making instructional tennis films before realizing that perfect form went out the window during match play. He decided to start recording not just the matches of the French Open, starting in 1969, but also to create portrait films of the best players. His final portrait was of John McEnroe, and the fact that the footage focuses solely on McEnroe and not his opponents is reminiscent of the fascinating 2006 soccer film, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. While working at the National Sport Institute in Paris, director Julien Faraut discovered a treasure trove of unseen footage of McEnroe. From that, he derived this compelling look at McEnroe's excellence as well as his outbursts and how they may have been a strategy to psych out his opponents. Opening with the Jean-Luc Godard quote, "Cinema lies, sport does not," this combination of cinema and sport may not lie, per se, but may exaggerate a bit. The portrait ends with McEnroe's match against Ivan Lendl in the finals of the 1984 French Open, which is gripping as the match comes down to the wire and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Director Biography
Julien Faraut has worked at the French Sports Institute (INSEP) for fifteen years where he is in charge of the 16mm film collection. He has been able to use this collection to make his own films. He received his Master's in History from the University of Paris-Nanterre in 2000.

Sponsored by KING 5

  • Original Language Title: L'empire de la perfection
  • Director: Julien Faraut
  • Principal Cast: John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl
  • Premiere Status: Seattle
  • Country: France
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Producer: William Jehannin
  • Cinematographers: Julien Faraut
  • Editors: Andrei Bogdanov
  • Music: Serge Teyssot-Gay
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Berlinale International Film Festival 2018 (Grand Jury Prize - Forum)
  • Filmography: Un regard neuf sur Olympia 52 (Doc) (2013)
  • Language: French, English
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • US Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories
  • International Sales: Film Constellation