Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

By isolating the footballer from the general run of play, an ordinary league match becomes a study of one man's craft, in this case Zinedine Zidane, arguably the greatest in the world, now retired and to a lesser extent disgraced after head butting an Italian player in the final of the World Cup.

The film, which might be described as a documentary, because it's not fiction, is the work of two artists, the Turner Prize winning Douglas Gordon and the Frenchman Philippe Parreno. They used 17 cameras to watch Zidane throughout a Real Madrid game against Villarreal in the spring of 2005. It is fascinating for many reasons, not least because it shows how little running he does.

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The concept of a young player, Rooney for example, racing up and down the pitch is alien to him. He stands, watchful and alert, jogging backwards, sideways, sometimes for minutes, and then suddenly will leap into action, trap the ball, spin it, tap it to another player, or dribble it through the opposition with the grace of a gymnast. His footwork is astonishing, his control absolute.

This is not a film, like The Ultimate George Best, designed to dazzle the audience with amazing footie skills. It's a work in progress, a day in the life. The camera is close. He spits. Sweat runs off his face. He shouts "Hey! Ai! Ai!" Otherwise, he watches, intense, concentrated. He seldom smiles. He laughs once. He is not a hugger. When a goal is scored, he walks back to his place. When he is responsible for one of them, he accepts the congratulations of his teammates reluctantly, with a touch of hands. He is apart and yet completely of the moment.

Rarely the focus shifts to the game itself, with blurred TV long shots, but for the most part you have no idea what is going on, except you think you see Ronaldo score twice. Right at the end, there is a huddle of players at the far corner post and Zidane is in the thick of it, starting a fight. Beckham is there, forcing him back, smothering his anger before the incident erupts. Despite this, he is given a yellow card and leaves the field to rapturous applause. The camera retreats, watching him walk away, alone.

After 90 minutes, your impression of the man is one of isolation and commitment, intensity and control. He calls a game like this "no more significant than a walk in the park." Gordon and Parreno's film is infinitely more significant.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait packshot
Study of Zinedine Zidane during a Real Madrid match against Villarreal.
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Director: Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno

Starring: Zinedine Zidane

Year: 2006

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France

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