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Thread: THE FRENCH (William Klein 1982) reissued by Metrograph

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    THE FRENCH (William Klein 1982) reissued by Metrograph

    WILLIAM KLEIN: THE FRENCH (1982) - rerelease by Metrograph Pictures



    A sports classic with no smell of mothballs

    In Academy ratio, and bright colors, William Klein's film about the 1981 Rolland Garros, The French, is like a gleaming treasure box of tennis wonders, opening up to the people, the clothes, the rain on the clay courts, the tennis superstars of the time, seen intimately, and of course the tournament leading up from final to final to final and the golden Swede Bjorn Borg's triumph over the other big winner, Ivan Lendl. It's one of the most beautifully made sports films of all time for its nice look and framing, its lightness and good pacing. It's rather buttoned down by William Klein's standards. His bald rakishness is nowhere in evidence. And by modern standards the filming of games is only so-so. Maybe it could have lost ten or fifteen minutes, even more. But it's a very enjoyable watch and one of the most aesthetically perfect of all tennis films.

    Highlights: back-stage moments of important players lounging around, brainstorming after or during matches; McEnroe badmouthing the umpire nonstop during an entire rain-troubled match; an intimate picture of the French champion Yannick Noah, his surprising victories despite an injury, and his ill judged 5 lobs leading to elimination in the Quarter Final by the 6'4", movie star handsome, perpetually startled looking Víctor Pecci of Paraguay. Other than that, the audience the audience is aways a highlight, so well dressed in those days, men and women are a delight to the eyes. Studying this film could lead to a return to dressing up.

    So is all the crowd, which Klein and his three camera crews, who had unprecedented access to, can be seen wonderfully well. It's a delight to see Borg arriving for a match, and leaving afterward, always surrounded by a circular scrum of protectors and petty officials and always blissfully unperturbed. For his brief period of ascendency, Borg was a magnificent tennis champion to watch and one of sports history's great models of top conditioning.

    William Klein is known for busy, in-your-face still black and white images as an art photographer. He uses this penchant, but discretely and odestly, to serve the story here. There is always a crowd, and sometimes crowding, at Roland Garros. Only one truly Klein moment occurs: After a break a gaggle of people struggling to push through a gate. Only stub holders are allowed back in, it's announced. But this is a time when the French aren't at their most mannerly, and everyone is trying to squeeze by. More of a contrast after tis sequence to return to the insiders, the journalists and photographers with identifying bests, the VIP's in the best seats, the athletes and their handlers inside resting or preparing to go out.

    Much more proper than that gaggle of gate crashers, there is otherwise in this film a prevailing sense of order, from the ball boys and ball girls in their green and while BNP outfits to the uniformly well dressed adults dressed in restrained finery lined up on the stands watching. Almost all the male spectators are in coats and ties, and smart summery ones too. Here Klein judiciously uses the intense closeup from time to time to focus on a certain face, reaction shot, conversation. There are moments, for instance Arthur Ashe with a friend commenting on a game shot by shot from his seat on the stands. This film is made with great taste - again departing from Klein's more boisterous black and white style, and while the editing is logical and illustrative, it's never attention-getting, self-conscious, or cute.

    Women's matches alternate with the men's, and even if the ladies' action is less exciting, there is good coverage of fun moments among the women players, Martina Navratilova joking around, as continually, is Ilie Năstase. Chris Evert is seen in a match. There are old tennis greats, current ones, and those to come. This is not a "colorful sidelights film." It serves the tournament and gives us a clear and exciting picture of its main outlines and some of the most exciting matches. But colorful sidelights are always there. The French is a model of balance. Everything and everybody is here, and nothing feels out of place.

    The French, 128 mins., was released in Frence June 30., 1982. It is rereleased in the US by Metrograph May 22 theatrically, introduced by Wes Anderson,and opens online exclusively at Metrograph.com June 11, 2021.

    According to Metrograph the New York theater will mark release of The French with a program of tennis-themed documentary and narrative films beginning June 18 including Theo Anthony’s Subject to Review introduced by him, and a first-ever streaming presentation of Anthony Harvey’s Players, starring Ali MacGraw, with cameos by John McEnroe and Ilie Năstase, introduced by Caitlin Thompson, co-founder and publisher of Racquet magazine, all available exclusively on metrograph.com.

    PRESENTED BY WES ANDERSON

    JOIN TO WATCH • FRI, JUN 18 • 5PM PDT A
    AVAILABLE ON DEMAND JUN 19 - JUL 1


    PLAY TRAILER



    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-15-2021 at 05:32 PM.

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