Reviews

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

4

Towards the end of this year’s World Cup, long after English dreams had died, pundit Ian Wright visited Berlin’s modern art gallery. Browsing various baffling installations, the footballer’s reflections marked a watershed. Football had met art and hadn’t made a fool out of itself. Now, pushing those two seemingly disparate worlds even closer together are Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, co-directors of what may become one of 2006’s most divisive films.

In planting 17 cameras around Real Madrid’s 80,400 capacity home, but only picking out Zidane, they shun the chaos (offsides, goals, cards) of the ongoing match. Indeed, by focusing solely on the greatest player of this century, the beautiful game’s intricacies are lost, replaced by a sweaty man lingering in the centre circle, waiting for his inferior teammates (headless chicken Beckham...) to pass the ball. Why divisive? Because, for many, this will just be a Sky Sports Playercam they can’t switch off.

Yet, as the game progresses, the viewer is slowly overtaken by a calming transcendence – thoughts swirl and the mind drifts, inventing stories and subplots for a drama that can’t be scripted. Accompanied by some of Mogwai’s softer moments and the occasional subtitled thought from Zidane himself (“When you are immersed in the game... You are never alone”), the football becomes a mere sideshow. Like Last Days, musings are ascribed to the protagonist – “I’m lonely, tired of this sport, of carrying the hopes of a liberal France. I should have been a philosopher...”

 

Then, during half-time, news footage (missing children, trapped miners, international summits) from the day of shooting is splashed across the screen and a whole other facet of Zidane is introduced. We are transfixed by football and are culpable of overlooking life or death events in favour of Zidane’s “walk in the park”. And now, with this entrancing documentary, we’ve been granted special privilege to indulge ourselves further.

Verdict:

Football as never seen before. Mesmerising, poignant and a better epitaph for Zidane's career than a certain rush of blood to the head.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • treble1999

      Feb 27th 2009, 23:14

      5

      Any avid football fans will naturally have an appreciation for Zinedine Zidane. They will subsequently have an appreciation for this work of genius. This film is a work of true cinematic art for two reasons. Firstly, it feeds the football fans thirst to see their heroes in new lights. Secondly, it is an artistic media creation beyond anything I have seen. From the first, football fan, perspective, this is like gold dust. Too often, we are fed the same processed images of our football icons. Of course, we see them when they are performing, but only really when they are on the ball. But we also see them posing for advertisments, fulfiling photoshoot obligations and delivering interviews rendered tragically mundane by the shackles put on them by their clubs. We are very rarely delivered anything to see our heroes without these forced inhibitions. And, quite frankly, it is boring. We end up counting how many times David Beckham says, "you know" in an interview, we chastise Cristiano Ronaldo for wearing lime-green boots and we heckle managers and chairmen into absolute submission when they have half a season of mediocrity. But when we see the true individuals and something natural about them, we are fascinated and this is what this film does. The concept seems ridiculous. The cameras follow Zidane for 90 minutes regardless of what else is going on. Somehow, it is captivating. It gives an incredible representation of the man. We know he is enigmatic, intense and extremely hard to read. He is almost expressionless but this makes all of his smallest movements all the more fascinating. We see him constantly dragging his toes on the surface of the pitch as he walks as if his feet simply cannot bare being away from the green grass of the pitch. His communication is negligible, going against every principle we are taught as children to talk to our team-mates on the pitch. But when he does speak, it makes the human ears become as acute as dolphins' in a vain attempt to dissect something to give us an idea of what he is thinking. But this is where the production comes in; most notably the music. We see Zidane struggle in this particular match, and we see his frustration grow somehow in his expressionless exterior. His eyes are so deep-set that they become black as pitch, yet we still know his frustration and the music just elevates this awareness. He finally becomes visibly riled and disgusted at those dark elements of the game which hinder his expression of all that is good about the game. The diving Villareal player, the feigning of injury, the shocking refereeing decisions which culminate in an awarding of a penalty where we are given the only subtitle of Zidane's miniscule dialogue: "You should be ashamed". It culminates in the eruption of our hero. The famous temper of the genius. And you sit, shocked, distraught, yet utterly mesmerised. I won't delve too much into the happenings of the game itself. This is not a spoiler. The production needs to be commended however. Along with the music itself, the sound production is breathtaking. At times, we hear the rumble of the crowd, at times, we hear only the breathing of the man. The occasional spit and cough. These tiny details, for some reason, cause the viewer to stir. But maybe more surprisingly, and definitely more amazing, is the fact that the film runs in a narrative. We have our hero, introduced in his surroundings and context. Surrounded by the familiar faces of Beckham and Ronaldo who merely act as scenery. We see his struggle begin, the start of his journey as he gets a few touches. Then we see some text detailing what appear to be Zidane quotes. It gives us the insight into the man we are watching, what he is about and what he is trying to acheive. As he tries to acheive his goal of playing "the beautiful game", we encounter the villains: the diver, the referee. We see his acquaintances: Raul, Guti, Casillas all appear and depart quickly from time-to-time. Roberto Carlos plays the funny sidekick in a rare role longer than the split seconds that the others are given. Beckham, his charm undeniable, is elevated in status by clearly being liked by our intense, enigmatic, loner of a hero. Zidane floats in and out of the game with a struggle. The tension builds as we assume something must surely happen. And it does, but the goal is still yet to be acheived. Surely we will see him score? The hero goes into his final push, the final road his accomplishment as the pace picks up. We feel the happy ending will come, but we know that somewhere inside our hero rests his weakness which always simmers. And so we meet the final villain. After the referee and the diver comes the two-footed lunge. The horrific tackle by an opponent on a team-mate who was trying to express himself; trying to play the beautiful game that our hero so strives to express. And instead of the happy ending we see the weakness. While the players melee in their similar fashion: the "handbags at dawn" with whoever is closest, Zidane heads straight for the root of the evil. He seethes at the villain who is trying to damage his beautiful-game playing team-mates. He has eyes for none of the typical argy-bargy of the other footballers. We usually see this as someone lashing out, but this is Zidane. We may see it as his weakness and his short fuse, but in actual fact, he probably has no fuse. He reacts as he sees truly fit as Zidane is the defender of the beautiful game. As he trudges off, just as he did on that fateful night in 2006 when he trudged off the green for the last ever time, it seems as though it isn't the happy ending we wished for. "The Flawed Genius" shows his weakness again. Or is he just doing what he sees as true and right for the game? Some say he does not deserve to be in the pantheon of the greats because of this. Some say this is exactly why he does belong there. The opinion on our hero is divided. This particular observer has no doubts. This incredible creation of film lets the viewer make the decision. It represents "Zizou" remarkably well. Nothing short of a masterpiece in the truest sense of the word.

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      Dec 31st 2010, 6:13

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