John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection
by Julien Faraut
Scenes from a black-and-white instructional film about tennis. The commentary explains that the players erroneously assumed that their demonstrations corresponded to the actual movements made in a match. This observation and Jean-Luc Godard’s statement that “Movies lie, not sports” taken from an interview with the "L’Équipe" sports magazine form the starting points for a study on the body and movement, on tennis and the cinema as reflected in analogue technology.
It begins with a visit to the national sports archive, where celluloid treasures lie buried. 16-mm films about the performances of John McEnroe, a left-hander, at the Roland Garros Stadium. In slow motion and from different perspectives, we see his back bend and the unconventional position of his feet when serving. The formidable result of this movement is then demonstrated in real time. Music transforms individual scenes into rock operas or Italo-Westerns of epic length. Isn’t tennis all about becoming the director of your own game? John McEnroe played against his notorious temper tantrums and covered them up at the same time. In close-ups, you see the solitary personality of a player at one with himself.