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Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Nature Film About Zinedine Zidane

posted by on March 27 at 14:58 PM


Adam Sekuler, the programming director at Northwest Film Forum, introduced the 2006 documentary about Zinedine Zidane last week by describing it as a nature film about a footballer in his native habitat. He’s absolutely right. Zidane comes across as a creature on the prowl. He has a loping gait, characterized by mindless toe-tapping. He spits like he’s hissing, and he sweats profusely. When he breaks into a run, the camera struggles to follow his unpredictable motion. His stony expression changes only once the entire 95-minute film, into a smile directed at fellow player Ronaldo. Instead of following the ball, the film sets all cameras—17 of them—on Zidane, for the duration of a match that took place in Madrid on April 23, 2005. The cameras’ devotion to Zidane is total; it’s hard to figure out what’s going on in the game.

The makers of “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait” are conceptual artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno. (Gordon’s earlier work includes “24-Hour Psycho,” in which he stretched the Hitchcock movie so it takes a full day to screen.) They weren’t the first to have the idea: In the 1970 movie “Football As Never Before,” which Northwest Film Forum is also screening this week, German director Hellmuth Costard trained eight cameras on the Northern Irish player George Best for a whole match.

Best disappeared into alcoholic obscurity after the film about him was made. Zidane, on the other hand, a highly decorated French player of Algerian descent, exploded into worldwide infamy. In the 2006 World Cup final against Italy, seemingly out of the blue, Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi in the chest, throwing the Italian player to the ground and provoking cries of “Why?” from French commentators. (Materazzi later admitted to insulting Zidane.) Zidane was kicked out of the game. He had already announced his retirement; this was his last act on the field. The French lost, 5-3, in a penalty shootout.

In retrospect, “Zidane” becomes unintentionally loaded, like the mundane details of a school shooter’s life. It adds another dimension to an already complex portrayal—in which the halftime show is a montage of what else happened on the day of the filmed game on April 23, 2005, from the director’s son coming down with a fever to an Iraqi bombing at which a survivor is wearing a Zidane jersey—of Zidane as philosophical as well as animal. The few words that scroll silently across the screen are from interviews with him.

“The game is not experienced or remembered in real time,” he says. Neither is the film, with its range of visual depth and its mesmerizing manipulations of the sounds in the stadium, its sonic zooms. It breaks through its only restriction—real time—and flows.

The movie plays next weekend (April 4-6) at NWFF.

RSS icon Comments


I am so ridiculously excited. I did a double-take when I saw the poster for this up on a telephone pole near my house.

Posted by Abby | March 27, 2008 4:00 PM

Zidane's straight GANGSTA!

Posted by Shilo Urban | March 27, 2008 4:18 PM

Nice summary of a hard-to-describe film. I found the Mogwai score really relaxing.

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | March 27, 2008 9:26 PM

Holy fucking shit -- "disappeared into alcoholic obscurity?" Are you kidding me?!?!?

George Best never disappeared into obscurity. His talents waned, but he continued to be a highly visible and beloved fixture in football and pop culture and, when he died, was sent off to football heaven with a state funeral at Stormont (look it up) and hundreds of thousands of mourners lining the route.

God bless Bestie, and he will NEVER be obscure, Jen.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | March 27, 2008 9:34 PM

Jubilation, chill. Best stopped playing when he was 27. He was celebrate at his death for the talents he'd displayed in decades long-gone. You're a good fan, though.

Posted by Jen Graves | March 27, 2008 10:37 PM

Jen, I am chill -- forgot to put my heater on last night. And yes, I need to be nicer to my favorite art maven.

But still, as a journalist of all things, you should know that George was never obscure. He was always in the press -- for better or worse.

I do not argue he was self-destructive and his talents ended in a bottle of plonk, but "obscure?" Never.

Good day to you, madame.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | March 28, 2008 7:12 AM

"In retrospect, “Zidane” becomes unintentionally loaded, like the mundane details of a school shooter’s life."

This is also BS. Zidane is far more noteworthy for being ONE OF THE GREATEST FOOTBALLEURS OF ALL TIME then he is head butting Materazzi. Except of course, to you.

Posted by bub | March 28, 2008 10:38 AM

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