William Klein

F.: Nurith Aviv, William Klein, Yann Le Masson. Mus.: Jean-Pierre Mas. Int.: Arthur Ashe, Marcel Bernard, Björn Borg, Don Budge, Philippe Chatrier, Henri Cochet, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Ivan Lendl, Virginia Ruzici, Yannich Noah, Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas. Prod.: Pascal Judelewicz. DCP

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

For Klein, sport, rock and religion are themes that open doors. So the proposition of filming Roland-Garros, the locus of his favourite sport, was irresistible to him.
The French (the Americans and British call Roland-Garros “the French Open”) is a film that exudes health. It is Klein’s most laid-back film; a tennis fan’s declaration of love, his entry into the inner sanctum of the sport he adores. He is the last person to have been authorised to film in the changing rooms. Subsequently, it was banned.
The French shows us a Roland-Garros that we thought we knew. It features the great and the not so great, the losers and the winners. He follows the Romanian Ruzici, so pretty, so friendly, so unlucky to lose every game against Chris Evert, Yannick Noah zoning out beneath the hands of his masseur, players awaiting their games and commenting on the match issuing from the TV set.
Klein says, “The changing rooms are a whole other world. Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing that close up! There are supporting players and stars. Borg remaining aloof, speaking to nobody, Nastase forever joking around, Connors, whose only response to the camera was to drop his trousers. Vilas listening to ocean waves on his Walkman, his nose pressed to the wall.”
Klein’s camera is full of equanimity. And quietly insidious. We see Yannick Noah, naked and natural, and the taciturn Ivan Lendl, all smiles after having signalled to Klein to stop filming. Lendl bursting into laughter!
The French is entirely different from televised broadcasts. The “Klein touch” combines goodwill, voyeurism and jubilation. People know they are being filmed. They relate unpretentiously to this visible invisible man who has been in their midst for two weeks.
Borg said: “I’m like everyone else, I’m not a machine.” It was his major statement. 1981 was the end of his reign.

Claire Clozot, William Klein Films, Marval, Paris 1998

Copy From

Restored by Films Paris New-York in collaboration with CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée at Éclair Classics laboratory, from the original color 16mm A/B cut negative for the image and the optical 16mm original sound. Restoration supervised by Pierre-Louis Denis, Studio William Klein