Sunday, 21 June 2009

Tennis in Film - the missing half dozen

Today's Observer runs a disposable-topical list piece called Top Ten Tennis Films. Philip French has come up with a broad roster of films which, whilst not necessarily about the sport, have a tennis scene in them. Consequently a masterpiece like Blow-Up has a nod although French also feels compelled to include the tissue-thin Wimbledon.

Of course, there are a handful of films that this necessarily cuckolds. Here are the missing half dozen:

1. The Squid and the Whale. If on-screen tennis isn't about sport then it's about gamesmanship and the disingenuousness of the middle-class. This film about the break up of a marriage & family kicks off with such an encounter.

2. A Room with a View. More tennis as comedy-of-manners here as Edwardian passion and propriety clash on an aristocratic lawn.

3. The French Lieutenant's Woman. A peculiar interpolation for this film-within-a-film adaptation of Fowles is a sequence of Real Tennis. This is, itself, a nod towards the strong gravitational pull of all things Gallic inherent in the title.

4. The Three Musketeers. More Real Tennis - this time as yet another craftily incorporated sequence of period élan and great comic opportunity.

5. Match Point. Woody Allen's first Johansson/London outing concerns a professional tennis player who turns out to be a real nasty. The film opens with a super slom-mo shot of a tennis ball teetering on a net cord.

6. The Sopranos (Season 3, Ep. 1: Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood). Not a film (although many argue that The Sopranos has the breadth, ambition and productions values of such) but this memorable start to season three of the TV drama re-asserts the cultural chasm between the middle class which Carmela feels at home in and the benighted class to which she is tied, all with a voyeur's smile.

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