With this year’s French Open recently concluding, it’s the opportune time to watch one of cinema’s greatest sports documentaries. Capturing the annual tennis event 40 years ago, Muhammed Ali, the Greatest director William Klein’s The French takes an intimate look at the 1981 French Open with John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Yannick Noah, Arthur Ashe, Martina Navratilova, and Björn Borg. Set to open virtually at Metrograph starting this Friday, we’re pleased to present the exclusive trailer.
As the official synopsis reads, “In 1981, Klein and three camera crews were given exclusive, unprecedented access to the tournament for the first time in its 90-year history, and using that doorway into locker rooms, TV studios, and players’ boxes, he shot the ultimate behind-the-scenes look at the 1981 French Open. With Klein’s customary eagle eye and whirlwind energy, The French showcases the noisy bedlam that accompanies any major sporting event, while also revealing a level of candor from his subjects that is impossible to imagine in today’s secretive media-trained world. From the massage tables to the umpires’ chairs, Klein captures the details of one of the greatest events in tennis history, the locker room gossip, the splattering of clay and sweat, the rapt audiences, and of course, the masterful tennis plays.”
Wes Anderson, who is presenting the film (and has one of the most memorable bits of tennis in one of his own films, The Royal Tenenbaums), said, “For me, this film encapsulates everything I loved and love about the tennis of that moment; and in the hands of the great and singular William Klein, it is at once a gripping sports page, a fascinating piece of reportage, and a work of art.”
To coincide with The French, Metrograph will also present Tennis, Anyone?, a program of tennis-themed documentary and narrative films beginning June 24, including Theo Anthony’s Subject to Review, introduced by the filmmaker; Marcel Carriere’s Ping Pong, about the 1973 table tennis games between Canadians and Chinese players in the People’s Republic of China; and, streaming for the first time ever, a special one-night-only presentation of Anthony Harvey’s Players, starring Ali MacGraw, featuring cameos from John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase as themselves, and introduced by Caitlin Thompson, co-founder and publisher of Racquet magazine.
Watch the trailer below.
The French opens on Metrograph’s Virtual Cinema on Friday, June 18.