John McEnroe’s serve has never been equalled: he throws the ball into the air, sweeping his arm backward while his back twists and rotates—and then his feet leave the ground. The force he produces unleashes a ball that opponents don’t even see coming. And then of course there’s his varied arsenal of backhands, lobs and perfectly placed drop shots.
Gil de Kermadec, the technical director of the French tennis association, was obsessed with this American player who dominated the men’s game in the 1980s. To analyze his movements, the Frenchman filmed McEnroe during the Roland Garros tournament—he shot hundreds of hours of 16mm film, often in slow motion.
Julien Faraut later used this material to make a film that's much more than a sports documentary. He places cinema and tennis on equal footing in this fascinating visual essay on time, movement and perception—and drama of course, because McEnroe was infamous for his outbursts. Captured by a lens focused exclusively on the player, we see McEnroe as an actor battling it out with himself. Framed by searing guitar music, the 1984 French Open—which McEnroe embarrassingly lost to underdog Ivan Lendl—is a fitting apotheosis.
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