John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection ★★★½

I expected perhaps an elevated or at least a clever kind of sports documentary but I was shocked to discover it’s not a sports documentary at all. It purports to be more of a meditation on filmmaking and frankly a kind of pretentious one at that. Its highfalutin script doesn’t quite land all of the assertions it makes about McEnroe’s game as art.

What it does succeed at is creating a kind of expressionist painting of what it means to be an incredibly gifted and tortured athlete. It’s a painting rendered in gorgeous, vintage 16 mm film stock that’s beautiful to behold both for its color and grain and for how it captures the way McEnroe plays the game. The results are amazing, like nothing else I’ve ever seen—or heard, really, because the soundtrack is also completely unexpected.

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