Eric Drath’s documentary explores the life of transsexual tennis star Renée Richards before and after her 1975 gender reassignment surgery.
Renée, Eric Drath’s documentary about transsexual tennis star Renée Richards and her battle to play as a woman in the 1977 U.S. Open, is as fascinating as it is frustrating. Made for ESPN Films and shown in the current Los Angeles Film Fest prior to broadcast later this year, the film brings you up-to-date on a personality who once dominated headlines but has now largely faded from public view.
Drath tries to get to the bottom of two people, Richard Raskin, who was born in 1934 into a comfortable upper middle-class existence, and Renée — “French for ‘re-born,’ ” she reminds — following Raskin’s gender reassignment surgery in 1975. It’s fair to say both remain an enigma.
Richards has written two autobiographies and seen two movies made about her life, the TV movie Second Servestarring Vanessa Redgrave and now this one. Yet she remains elusive. This enigmatic quality isn’t just about the schizophrenia of Dick and Renée but about the contractions and self-doubts each possessed.
Drath, who comes from a tennis-loving family, remembers as a boy Dr. Raskin, an eminent eye doctor who treated his sister, yet later appeared in a skirt at the U.S. Open, and wants to find out what happened. Good luck.
Observing Richards in an interview today and then in old footage and old interviews, one clearly observes a war going on within this person, not so much between male and female, as between what one friends calls the “private person,” who is extremely wary of all this attention, and a headstrong and arrogant individual who craves the limelight.
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