Tennis And How To Play It is a 15-minute quasi-instructional film about how to play tennis starring 1920s tennis superstar Suzanne Lenglen.
Roughly divided into two parts, the first half is mostly Suzanne Lenglen playing actual tennis outside, with the second half largely her in the film studio, recreating her shots in front of some slow motion cameras.
There’s also considerable interest in her celebrity (unsurprisingly), so the actual tennis stuff is interspersed with footage of her arriving at the club in a very large car, signing autographs in an amazingly huge fur coat, doing her make-up (next to her very bronzed looking father), and just staring happily at the camera for a bit, stroking her racquet like it’s some sort of pet.
The slow motion sections reminded me (especially in it’s use of slow motion) of Taris, 1930s film about the swimmer Jean Taris (directed by Jean Vigo), although not as beautiful (as elegant as Suzanne Lenglen is, her service action, even slowed down to a tenth of it’s speed, is never going to be as mesmerising to watch as slow motion water, it’s bubbles and splashes, ripples and waves).
Meanwhile, Little Lenglens is a single minute of news footage from the same year, featuring some girls playing tennis over the park.
There’s not that much to say about this, really, although I do like seeing how even kids weren’t allowed to escape the cumbersome trappings of 1920s tennis gear (including the boys seemingly having to play – or at least watch – in their blazers).
And that’s all the tennis.
2. I couldn’t find either of them on youtube, unfortunately, if for some reason you can’t watch these on the BFI player.
3. Although there’s lots of other videos of Suzanne Lenglen on there which you might like.
4. Some of them, shockingly, not even 100 years old.
5. I made sure to shield my eyes from such glimpses of the future, of course.
Title: Tennis And How To Play It
Duration: 15 minutes
Watch: BFI Player
Title: Little Lenglens
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player