just found a review! I had to edit a bit of it due to some harsh language.
The lost film in question is called “The French,” a documentary about the 1982 French Open directed by William Klein. Klein is most famous to the world at large as a photographer, and probably best known to those of you out in No Mas-land for his film “The Greatest,” a documentary about Ali that is in my opinion the best movie ever made about the Champ.
Klein’s documentary style is of the wordless observer – there is no narration in his films. His whole project in the Ali and the French Open movies is to use sports as a lens to view a cultural moment. In “The Greatest,” covering the first Liston/Ali bout, he takes to the streets of Harlem as locals argue about the fight, and visits a largely African-American theater class where the students are producing one-acts about Ali, then Cassius Clay. The effect of Ali’s inflammatory persona is transmitted in these scenes almost as powerfully as those that feature the Champ himself. It’s an electrifying film, as much about African-American identity in the 60’s as it is about a charismatic heavyweight.
“The Greatest” is readily available on Amazon and Netflix, and at least here in New York, shown in revival houses periodically. “The French,” however, has disappeared from the face of the earth. I know about, and have seen, this film, purely by fortuitous accident. I had recently seen “The Greatest” for the first time at Film Forum with CI, and I saw a blurb… god, I can’t even remember where, somewhere very random… that this William Klein film about the 1982 French Open would be screened at Florence Gould. I convinced a skeptical non-tennis-fan friend of mine to accompany me. This was about five, six years ago. I’ve never seen a public mention of it again.
“The French” is not as compelling a movie as “The Greatest” by any means, but for those of us obsessed with the huge tennis stars of the 70’s and 80’s (meaning just about every tennis fan on the face of the earth) it is essential viewing, just for what intimate access you get into the players offcourt universe in a Grand Slam setting.
Here are the conclusions I drew from this film:
• Borg was the coolest mother**** of all time (check out that stamp - it's ill). He was a cross between Humphrey Bogart, a Swedish porn star and a lazy but talented leopard. He cared little about tennis even though he was the greatest player of his era and in his free time he literally bathed in p****.
• Yannick Noah was only slightly less cool than Borg.
• Lendl was like, severely paranoid and weird.
• McEnroe was borderline insane, to the point where it almost seemed like he had Tourette’s syndrome. The moment he stepped on the tennis court he started spouting off, to the ump, to the fans, to any passing birds. Mostly to himself. Nobody liked him (big surprise on that one).
• Nastase was f**** hilarious. There’s a great scene where during a rain delay he’s got Chris Evert and Hana Mandlikova laughing like schoolgirls while he flashes his buttcrack at them in the clubhouse. Nastase was clearly an armpit fart kind of guy of the finest order.
And on and on and on. If you’re a tennis junkie, you see why it’s a crime that this movie is not available ANYWHERE in the States. There are some obscure places on the French web where you can order it (sans subtitles, bien sur) but nowhere in America. What the f***? I don’t know how it works, but here’s my plea directed to the American Entrepreneur at Large – would some one of you out there with a lot of money and power and who generally does this sort of thing unearth this film from whatever moldy vault it’s in and put it on DVD and, you know, sell it? This movie needs an audience. Merci, messieurs. Vous serez recompense.
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