There is still a Frenchman in contention at Roland Garros!
Three days after the end of the tournament, tennis is playing extra time… in the cinema.
The Porte d'Auteuil stadium is the setting for “5th Set”, the new film by Quentin Reynaud (“Paris-Willouby”) carried by the bluffing performance of Alex Lutz as a former genius of French tennis who tries a unlikely comeback at almost 38 years old.
A dive into the harsh intimacy of an athlete confronted with age, fallen hopes, sacrifices, a difficult family balance… One of the rare examples of a film succeeding in capturing with great precision the gestures and the dramaturgy tennis.
Its director, a former regional player (he was classified 2/6 to 16 years old), tells us behind the scenes.
A rare sport on the big screen
Tennis has always struggled to burst the screen.
"It is the backdrop to a few films, such as" Match Point "," an Elephant that is a huge deception "," Monsieur Hulot's Holidays "or" L'Inconnu du Nord-Express ".
But there are very few who are interested in the psychology of a tennis player, I had identified this lack, ”slips the filmmaker.
"There is something complicated in the setting in scene, he continues, because unlike boxing, very photogenic, where we are in a clinch with the two characters in the same frame, there, they are fifteen meters from each other!
Suddenly, I tried to bring them as close as possible with tight shots, staying in their shadow, their sweat, their breath, their perspiration.
“For me, tennis was just a family get-together on TV,” says Alex Lutz.
LP / Philippe de Poulpiquet
An exceptional player
In real life, Alex Lutz cannot play tennis.
On screen, the subterfuge is disturbing realism.
The Caesarized actor trained for four months, five hours a day, to take on this role.
But not to learn how to do a backhand or a forehand.
Read alsoCésar 2019: the revenge of Alex Lutz, best actor
“During the preparation, I asked him to become a total tennis player
points, confides the filmmaker.
The way he walks on the field, stands, the way he puts on his grip
(Editor's note: the coating of the racket handle)
, of taking the balls in his hand, of wiping his face, his posture, his shoulders… It is this credibility that he brought, a very big job.
He tapped the ball a bit to get closer to the feeling, but it was mostly body language, physique, muscle building.
The result: a literally stunning performance.
Nice sleight of hand
In order for Thomas Edison, the character played by Alex Lutz, to play credible tennis, Quentin Reynaud used a few techniques. He relied in particular on the physical resemblance of the lining of the actor, the former 400th world player Frédéric Petitjean. The director has sometimes juggled the two on the same scene, thanks to a subtle set of cameras.
He also used, on rare occasions, particularly successful special effects which allow Alex Lutz to be seen from the front striking several shots with the fluidity of a quasi Federer.
“We shot a few identical scenes on a green screen with Frédéric Petitjean and Alex, and performed a face replacement.
»Wow effect guaranteed.
“Above all, it helps to get into the spectator's head that Alex really is the player.
It was out of the question that a detail not credible tenistically pollute the dramaturgy.
Roland-Garros, a character in its own right
The “5th Set” team did not immediately obtain permission from the French Tennis Federation to set up its cameras in the legendary lair of Roland-Garros. “I had considered other places, in Madrid, in Belgium, or even in Mali, to recreate a tournament. But Roland-Garros has an evocative power for a French player that could not be found anywhere else. "
The agreement of the former president of the FFT Bernard Giudicelli unblocked the situation.
"They knew that we would not do an advertisement for them, that we were going to show all aspects of the tennis profession, but they knew how to see the honesty of our project", appreciates the director, who was able to use the short 14 to film Lutz / Edison matches.
“It was a huge pleasure, we were really at home.
Roland-Garros, suddenly, becomes a super-powerful character.
The fact of evolving in these colors, this orange, this green, makes us immediately enter a mythology.
»And discover with more realism the daily acrimony of the kings of ocher.
EDITOR'S RATING: 3/5
, film by Quentin Reynaud with Alex Lutz, Ana Girardot, Kristin Scott Thomas… 1h53.