With Atlantic Station serving up the BB&T Atlanta Open starting today, we got to thinking about tennis and movies.
One blogger, citing duds like Nobody's Perfect and Wimbledon, posits that other sports like boxing, baseball, football, and even golf have a rich history in the cinema, but insists that tennis lacks a single notable film.
We disagree. In fact, we've identified three directors for whom tennis serves as a recurring leitmotif throughout their work. While tennis is not primary subject of any of their works, the sport acts as a thematic touchstone to address a variety of moral, ethical, and emotional conflicts.
Wes Anderson is likely as interested in tennis for its angular aesthetics and the structural design of a racquet as he is in the back and forth cacophony of the game itself. But his work shows an ongoing obesession with the sport. While he first visits tennis in Rushmore, it is the Royal Tenenbaums where he introduces the greatest tennis sequence in the history of cinema: Richie Tenenbaum's center court meltdown.
Even in his commercial work for American Express, Anderson shows an affinity for tennis:
Tennis runs so deep in Anderson's DNA, that it surfaces in films he produces, like The Squid and the Whale, directed his occasional collaborator Noah Baumbach (Fantatic Mr. Fox).
Woody Allen uses tennis as a metaphor. It's the meeting spot for the star-crossed relationship between Alvy Singer and Annie Hall.
Tennis also provides the thematic spine of the neo-noir Match Point In the film's prologue, Jonathan Rhys Myers, a former professional tennis player, explains the role of luck in one's life using a common example from tennis:
Alfred Hitchcock is the original tennis master of the cinema—and both WA's owe Hitch a tremendous lot.
In Strangers on a Train, Farley Granger is a tennis pro in the middle of a match. The suspense builds as Hitchcock intercuts the action with a classic MacGuffin sequence involving a lighter (embossed with tennis racquets) that has fallen through a sewer grate.
In Dial "M" for Murder, Ray Milland is a retired tennis pro who plots to kill his philandering wife, and a tennis racquet makes an appearance in Lifeboat.
Other great tennis sequences:
For completists: an exhaustive guide to tennis sequences in film can be found here:
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