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John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection

  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 227 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

A new documentary takes a compelling look at the explosive tennis star. Info


Drawing on a trove of 16mm footage of tennis superstar John McEnroe at the 1984 French Open, director Julien Faraut documents one of the sport's most volatile players in the new John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection, screening here as part of MMOCA's Spotlight Cinema series. Using philosophizing voice-overs from Quantum Of Solace villain Mathieu Amalric, the movie expounds on athletic and aesthetic pleasure embodied in the hall-of-famer, opening with the Jon-Luc Godard quote, "Cinema lies, sports doesn't." This duality between movies and tennis drives the documentary. Reaching into technological questions, Faraut dramatizes the imposition of cameras in sports by showing McEnroe's verbal and physical assaults on the press.

Without saying it outright, the movie offers us a chance to consider McEnroe's temper alongside the recent focus on Serena Williams' anger on the court. One wonders why McEnroe's outbursts are remembered as virtuosic passion, while Williams', in much of the sports press, is discussed as a personal moral dilemma. While the camera lingers on McEnroe's apparent genius, the man's desire to control the game drives him into failure and isolation, emotionally captured in the final scene, revisiting his famous loss to John Lendl. —Reid Kurkerewicz

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