For that narrow cross section of auds passionate about soccer and experimental cinema, docu “Zidane, A 21st Century Portrait” will rep a masterpiece; for everyone else, pleasure will vary depending on individual interest in the sport and/or avant-garde filmmaking. First collaboration between gallery artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno studies Real Madrid’s French superstar Zinedine Zidane closely during an ordinary league match, capturing in process his extraordinary skill and subjective experience of the game. Pic should score minor B.O. goals from May 24 release in France with the World Cup looming, and fill tiny niches throughout Europe.
Pic was shot on a single day, during a single, not particularly consequential match on April 23, 2005, per subtitles. Footage covers most of the match during its 90-minute running time as Zidane, nickname Zizou, captains Real Madrid against Villareal, observed by 17 cameras, a mix of 35mm and high-def rigs, supervised by ace lenser Darius Khondji (“The Interpreter”).
Zidane is seen from various distances, at first through the sort of long, high-angle shots familiar from most TV broadcasts, as Spanish commentators are heard babbling quietly in the background (untranslated by French subtitles). Then, with a huge roar of crowd noise, pic cuts to medium close-ups Zidane as he fields the ball gracefully.
More extreme close-ups zoom in on his feet or torso at times, while views from cameras positioned at the very top of the stadium afford a bird’s eye view of the match.
Highlights include a showboat pass from the corner by Zidane to Ronaldo that scores a goal in the first half, and Zidane getting a red card for a foul. Zidane is considered one of the very best in the game today, a fact sports fans will be able to appreciate from footage seen here.
On another level, pic offers an audiovisual portrait of a 21st century icon in a new millennium way, one that could easily play galleries. Helmers Gordon (who won Blighty’s Turner Prize in 1996) and Parreno’s claim in press notes that they are drawing on a tradition stretching back to the classical painting and through to Andy Warhol holds water.
However, those who come seeking a traditional docu about the sport or Zidane will be sorely disappointed.
Prose is restricted to subtitles that run across the screen occasionally, quoting from an interview with Zizou about his thoughts on the game and personal memories. Closest equivalent in recent memory would be Claire Denis’ docu “Vers Mathilde,” about the dancer Mathilde Monnier.
Pic reaped a spectrum of reactions at projection caught, ranging from rapt fascination to irritated boredom and ankling. Reception from non-fest auds likely to be just as mixed.