By Sascha Krieger
L’empire de la perfection (Forum / France / Director: Julien Faraut)
In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, tennis enthusiast Gil de Kerdemac produced various series of instructional films about tennis. Starting with simple dry demonstrations of techniques and movements he later started filming the greats of his day during competitive matches. His favourite subject soon became John McEnroe, the emotional and sensitive genius of 1980s tennis. From that footage, French director Julien Faraut has constructed a film about the pursuit of perfection – in sport and in film making. He looks at McEnroe’s obsessive perfectionism but also at the evolution and techniques of the films de Kerdemac made, has both realms mirror each other and sides of the same coin. The search for perfection in the one is used as a symbol for that in the other. Which makes sense, especially when it’s done in such a light-hearted, humorous and gently ironic way. Particularly convincing are the isolation of images only looking at one player (McEnroe) and the series of the same scene from different angles. This allows us to look at the familiar in different ways, sometimes bordering on the absurd, as well as show the difference between film making and TV and the images Gil de Kerdemac produces are quite different from those of live sports broadcasts. However, the viewer grasps the point rather early on during these 95 minutes and soon – the audience’s reaction was obvious – focuses more and more on the match the film closes with, McEnroe’s 1984 French Open final against Ivan Lendl. And suddenly we’re much closer to the realm of distanced and unreflected sports TV than the film would like us to be.