Before John McEnroe exploded onto the tennis scene, tennis players were expected to comport themselves with the utmost civility. But the American firebrand was a champion whose skills were overshadowed by an electric volatility and penchant for yelling at umpires and line judges. After a faithful rendition by Shia LaBeouf (who enjoys his own kind of notoriety) in last year’s “Borg/McEnroe,” the legendary tennis player is getting his own documentary — one just as unconventional as its subject.
Directed by Julien Faraut and featuring narration by Mathieu Amalric, “John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection” uses gorgeous 16-mm-shot footage from McEnroe’s run at the French Open in 1984. The film premiered at the Berlinale and went on to play Film Society of Lincoln Center’s The Art of the Real program.
In April, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote of the film: “Accessible to tennis fans but targeted squarely at cinephiles, ‘In the Realm of Perfection’ looks at sports through the lens of film theory, recasting one of the sports world’s most exuberant personalities as something of an auteur. In between hilarious footage of McEnroe yelling at umpires, spectators, and anyone else within his line of sight, Faraut makes a compelling bid to complicate the line between athletes and artists. It isn’t long before you start to see McEnroe as a director, editor, and star all in on, the player stretching time like a filmmaker and calling “cut!” with the conclusion of each rally. You’ll never think of tennis — or of John McEnroe — the same way again.”
Oscilloscope will release “In the Realm of Perfection” in select theaters on August 22. Check out the trailer below.