John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

”Nice guys cannot make it in this sport.” – Mathieu Amalric

American actor Shia LaBeouf played John McEnroe in the fictitious Borg vs. McEnroe (2017). The casting choice may sound surprising but is actually excellent, even if the men are not exactly identical. McEnroe was the world’s best tennis player in his day – technically close to perfect – but he had problems with himself and his hot temper. Shia LaBeouf’s acting talent has also been overshadowed by the young man’s whimsical temper.

The documentary John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection by director Julien Fraut draws an artist’s portrait of this controversial tennis legend. The director sees McEnroe’s character as an auteur of the tennis courts – a captivating storyteller who repeats the narrative of victory tirelessly, time after time.

As all the best documentaries about athletes, also John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection grows into something bigger than its mere subject. Composed largely from historical footage shot on 16 mm film, the documentary is an elegant hybrid of motion, dedication and obsession.

The murmuring narrator is French actor/director Mathieu Amalric. ”Nice guys cannot make it in this sport,” he explains as McEnroe rages on in the pictures.

The final of French Open tennis tournament in 1984 is highlighted in the film. McEnroe was playing against Ivan Lendl, but his real opponent on the day was himself.

Saija Holm (Translation: Marko Pyhähuhta)

Language: French
Subtitles: English

  • Name in Original Language: L'empire de la perfection
  • Director: Julien Faraut
  • Country: France
  • Year: 2018
  • Length: 95 min
  • Age limit: K7
  • Format: DCP
  • Cinematography: Julien Faraut
  • Editing: Andrei Bogdanov
  • Music: Serge Teyssot-Gay
  • Production: Raphaëlle Delauche, William Jéhannin / UFO Production


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