“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.”
William Klein, the legendary American photographer and filmmaker, has put together a body of work as thrillingly eclectic as any living artist. In his 1969 film Muhammad Ali, the Greatest, Klein found a subject that combined his interest in sport and social criticism, and much the same combination can be seen at work, in a very different cultural context, in The French. Klein was the first person to be granted full, exclusive access to the tournament 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—a crucial moment in a crucial year in the history of a game, and its iconic players Björn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Yannick Noah, and Ivan Lendl. With Klein’s customary eagle eye and whirlwind energy, The French captures 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. A Metrograph Pictures release.