5th set: how to succeed in a tennis movie in 5 points

For the 5th set, his first solo film, Quentin Reynaud features a tennis champion who, without having reached the heights promised in his youth, struggles to hang up. A film lived in the head and the body of his hero, of which he tells us behind the scenes.

This article originally appeared in the “Directions for Use” section of Premiere issue 513.

Knowing the subject from the inside

5th set features Thomas, a 37-year-old tennis player who cannot bring himself to hang up. This idea, Quentin Reynaud – who played tennis at a good level – carries it for a long time, long before Paris Willouby, his first feature co-directed with Arthur Delaire in 2015. “I found that films about tennis never really broached the physical and psychological issues of the sport. It mainly serves as a backdrop, whether in Match Point, Clay and even Borg / McEnroe. I wanted to focus on what goes on in the mind of a tennis champion, the most violent sport after combat sports.“Show behind the scenes using knowledge of the game and the players.”I drew on the mythology of tennis through such champions with record longevity like Jimmy Connors. But also on close friends who had the level to go high and who never made it. “

5th Set: a beautiful film about a tennis champion at the end of his career [critique]

By finding the actor able to blend in with the character

Then the question of interpretation arises. With an obstacle identified from the start. “I knew that no actor would have the necessary level of tennis for this role and that I would use an understudy for the wide shots. But, in a tight shot, I needed a credible actor in the actions of the tennis player: his way of grabbing his towel, walking, drinking, getting up from his chair …“His choice fell on Alex Lutz, already present in Paris Willouby, without having written the role for him. “We ran into each other by chance on a train the day after his Caesar. We talked about our projects. He asked me to read 5th set. “Very quickly, Lutz called it back and their discussion instantly convinced Reynaud.”He had seen things in the script that had escaped me. I had no doubts about his level of investment. And he’s got that nostalgia in his emaciated, Buster Keaton-style face that instantly makes him believable as an old gamer.. “

5th set
Apollo Films

Obsessed with credibility

5th set is one of those movies on the wire. One detail next to the plate is enough for everything to collapse. But Quentin Reynaud did not let anything go. Starting with the way he films Alex Lutz on the court. “From his work with a coach four hours a day for four months, I knew he would be believable when filmed over the shoulder. That’s all I was interested in. Not that all the balls he hits are good. I only needed two or three shots of him playing head-on. “For the rest, he calls on an understudy, the tennis player Frédéric Petitjean, advised by a friend for his physical resemblance to Lutz.

By turning at Roland-Garros

Roland-Garros had never hosted the filming of a fiction. “To cover ourselves, we went to find alternative solutions in Madrid, Italy or Romania. But nothing could have had the power of Roland. “When Reynaud applies, he feels reluctance. But the president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli, ends up giving him the green light.”I was clear on the fact that the 5th set would not be an advertisement for either tennis or Roland-Garros. That I was going to show the harshness, the wounds, the money worries and the injustices inherent in this profession. But he understood the honesty of the project. “In the end, Roland-Garros is a character in its own right.

5th set
Apollo Films

By offering the spectator a “real” tennis match

5th set ends with a match at Roland Garros between Thomas and a young opponent. “This is the first scene I wrote. I especially wanted to offer this experience of an ultimate live game. Eight minutes commented as on TV by Lionel Chamoulaud and a consultant, Arnaud Di Pasquale, under live conditions. “This finale marks a break in the direction of Reynaud who boosts his story.”The general concept of my production was to invite the spectator onto the court. All the matches are therefore filmed from the shoulder. My cinematographer Vincent Mathias (Goodbye up there) even wore protection so that players could knock on him and feel the vibration. But for the last game, we enter a television staging. I filmed from the stand in long focal lengths. “A 21 point game,”in reference to the legendary one between Andre Agassi and Marcos Baghdatis at the 2006 US Open“and 100% choreographed.”I had noted all the sequences and once Jürgen Briand (the tennis player who plays Thomas’ opponent) and Frédéric Petitjean on the court, Alex’s coach announced them (serve to the right, climb to the net, passing-shot. ..) so that they play the blows. “Then, during the night, Reynaud edited the points so that, the next day, on the same court and at the same time (for questions of light), he could film Lutz’s movements running from one place to another, all with a fluidity that symbolizes that of a fastidious film, but never excluding for the neophyte.

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