The generally stoic visage of French footballer Zinédine Zidane, idolized midfielder for the Real Madrid team, eclipses the high-tech accoutrements of Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, an overblown nearly-real-time documentary-cum-“art installation” (as the film’s promo copy trumpets it) following the star athlete in the course of one 2005 match. Zidane’s coin-ready head—balding, sharp-nosed, jut-jawed—drips sweat and swivels cagily to monitor developing plays and potential scoring opportunities. When the image returns to wider, kinetic shots of the game’s action, captured from the sidelines by 17 35mm Scope cameras (supervised by veteran cinematographer Darius Khondji), the frame is busier but is often unlikely to signify much to anyone but hardcore enthusiasts of the sport. For a film that trains its state-of-the art zoom lenses on a game that unfolds with perpetual fluidity, Zidane isn’t interested in suspense or even the score (only one goal is clearly presented) but in the illusion that it chronicles one night on the pitch from its star’s perspective. It doesn’t and can’t, but monitors him in a mostly unvarying assortment of shots, sometimes from the waist up with the crowd in deep focus behind him, turning on an exhilarating burst of speed when he assumes control of the ball, but more often spitting, wiping off with his sleeve, adjusting his socks and breathing heavily in the sound mix. Directors Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno occasionally seem to send a camera up a staircase in the rafters of the arena, or shuffle through the events of the game day in world news, as insurance against torpor. (The muddled Zidane quotes periodically flashed on the screen, e.g., “Magic is sometimes very close to nothing at all,” could permit the film to be repurposed as a 90-minute credit-card ad.) The star’s on-field synergy with his teammates, apparently vital to his success, is so tertiary to the filmmakers’ motives that it takes awhile to recognize one of the other Madrid players as David Beckham. Scored dronily by the Scottish band Mogwai, Zidane keeps the rhythms of its visual and aural repetition so constant that the midfielder breaking into a laughing conversation around the 80-minute mark, followed almost immediately by a more consequential outburst, qualifies as a shocking climax.
- 90 min
- Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno
- Zinédine Zidane
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