Film Constellation has boarded “John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection,” the feature documentary about the Grand Slam-winning, umpire-baiting, tantrum-throwing tennis champion. The film will have its world premiere as part of the Berlinale Forum Selection and follows McEnroe at the height of his career, as well as taking in some of the lows, including his toughest loss, to Ivan Lendl, at the 1984 French Open.
Mathieu Amalric (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) narrates the film and said: “The narrative tension of a tennis game often surpasses cinema, and John McEnroe has been one of its most captivating stars.”
Director Julien Faraut scoured the Roland Garros archives for never-before-seen footage of McEnroe at the French Open. The footage he unearthed was shot in the 1980s by tennis-obsessed director Gil de Kermadec, who was attempting to use filmmaking theory as a means to analyze the game.
Faraut said he wanted to show McEnroe as a ruthless winner but also provide a new way into his story. “The theatricality of McEnroe and his very overt signs of dissatisfaction in front of the crowd or in full view of the camera take us – because it really is so unusual – into the domain which is more Actors Studio rather than high-level sports,” he said.
Tennis fans of a certain vintage are spoiled for choice at the moment with several films and docs released recalling the modern history of the game and its icons. “Battle of the Sexes” and “Borg/McEnroe” were both released last year.
“John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection” was produced by William Jehannin and Raphaelle Delauche.
“McEnroe’s unique style has left an indelible mark on tennis as a global sport, and as popular-culture icon,” said Film Constellation’s Fabien Westerhoff. “Fight, glory and pain, the film plunges into the very intimacy of the game, making for edge-of-your-seat viewing.”
London-based Film Constellation’s will also introduce “Breaking Habits” at the EFM in Berlin, the upcoming feature-doc about a group of cannabis-farming nuns.