Before the Materazzi meltdown; before that slow, slumped shuffle past the trophy plinth and into the bearpit of baying hypocrites (“Disgusting behaviour!” “No place for that in the game!” “Let’s see it one more time!”) Before Zinedine Zidane bowed/butted his way out of the beautiful game in an ugly fanfare of rage, there was this: a mesmerising, minimalist tribute to his unknowable artistry with a small sphere of puffed-up plastic.
Turner Prize-winner Douglas Gordon trained 17 cameras on Zidane as he scuffed and puffed and scurried and sulked his way around the Santiago Bernabeu during a Real Madrid vs Villareal match in April 2005. And that’s it.
No grainy cuts back to Zidane’s mum talking about her boy kicking cans in the street. No chummy vox-pops from Roberto Carlos or Raul dribbling on about Zizou’s skill. No wry, punctuating to-cameras from Zidane himself, slotting the film into cosy context. Instead, subtitled cut-ups from old interviews sporadically fade up, all designed to show everything and tell nothing.
And that’s that.
And it’s not voyeuristic or pornographic or personality-cultish or (yawn) pretentious. By cutting loose and stripping back from the familiar rhythms of televised football, Gordon presents Zidane as a celebration of how cinema doesn’t need to be swollen with stylistic flab and flash to spellbind. It’s simply one man’s uncluttered view of a game we’re used to seeing diluted and processed by a prattling mob of joshing commentators, surly pundits, Sky Sports preeners and cheerleaders.
Apart from an unwelcome half-time breather on the current affairs of the match-day, we stay fixed to that face; up close but impersonal, scanning for flickers of angels or demons, but finding nothing but self-absorption, pure focus and the sense that chasing around after a ball with 21 other men is actually a lonely old game.