The Realm
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The Realm

Corey Seymour – @speedist – I’ll go straight to the point and say it: John McEnroe: Julien Faraut’s In the Realm of Perfection is the best film about tennis ever made. It is true that the Venn diagram intersection that brings together “tennis”, Ophelia “film” and “genius” could require a magnifying glass to be seen, so I’m going to double the bet and say that Faraut’s film (which premieres at the Film Forum in New York next Wednesday) is one of the best films about any sport I’ve ever seen.

In an ideal scenario you would stop reading this article and you would simply go to see it right now: part of its exuberance, its surprise and its delight lies in how it confuses any expectation that you could have of it. But as we live in an imperfect The Seagull world, here is a brief summary: a few years ago, Faraut – audiovisual archivist at the National Sports Institute in Paris – discovered one can after another of unedited footage filmed by the strangely obsessive Gil de Kermadec, First national tennis director of France, during the 1984 French Open.

The narrowly focused frames only take one player at a time (mainly McEnroe, at the peak of his abilities) with the objective of objectively Zeroville studying the player’s blows. From this unprocessed footage Faraut, 39, edits deftly adding philosophical and psychological reflections (Mathieu Amalric provides the narrative) and comparisons with everyone, from Jake LaMotta in Wild Bull to Mozart in Amadeus, the film by Milos Forman ( One of the many fascinating things we learn in In the Realm of Perfection is that Tom Hulce’s inspiration in interpreting the young Mozart was, yes, McEnroe). Significantly, given the subject matter, he allows McEnroe’s tantrums (usually portrayed in rapid fragments of sound) to be prolonged, which has the effect of making them

The Realm
The Realm