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When John McEnroe played tennis during the peak of his career, it was pure art.

That's the hypothesis set forth in a new documentary on the Hall of Fame icon called "John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection". The film offers a unique, never before seen look at McEnroe, his game, and his personality during his run to the 1984 French Open final.

Directed by Julien Faraut and featuring narration by Mathieu Amalric, the documentary assembles rarely seen 16 millimeter film footage of McEnroe, who was World No. 1 at the time, filmed at Roland Garros during the 1984 tournament. The film premiered to rave reviews at the recently held Berlin Film Festival.

Faraut uses film that was shot by the Institut National du Sport et de l’Education Physique (INSEP) during the 1980’s. The director feels that even though video footage of McEnroe exists, the use of actual film transports the viewer even deeper into the theatricality of McEnroe the player and the personality.

Faraut weaves together footage of McEnroe playing his trademark serve and volley game on the slow red clay courts of Paris to the delight of the fans, but sometimes to the dismay of the umpires who had to deal with McEnroe's notorious temper. By showing us not just McEnroe's trademark on-court game, and emotions, the film makes the argument that McEnroe wasn't just a tennis player, but also the auteur of his own iconic art form that has transfixed tennis fans for over 30 years.

“Cinema can lie, not sport,” Faraut said in the official press notes, “On a tennis court, John McEnroe runs and suffers. He wins or loses. Those are the only options. There’s no time for editing or special effects. His list of achievements is also something concrete. It is verifiable. You would never think of setting up a rankings list between Mozart, Bach,and Haydn. However, you can easily look at the ATP charts to know if John McEnroe was in front of Jimmy Connors on such-and-such a date or behind Bjorn Borg. This is summarized in the phrase: “Cinema can lie, not sport.” Asort of contradiction that demands a pause for thought. That’s exactly what I wanted to explore and delve into. I also wanted to deconstruct the image of the player/actor who moans and who is impulsive—the stereotyped McEnroe we know from advertisements.”

"John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection", is scheduled to open in New York with a wider release throughout the rest of the United States later this summer.

(Photo Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories)