|Seventeen cameras were trained on Zinedine Zidane during a 2005 match to make the film. (Katapult films)|
Close-up views of a soccer star
Note: This is an abbreviated version of a review that ran in the Globe on May 6, 2007, for an earlier run of the film.
The most indelible moment of the 2006 World Cup came when France's Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi in the final. Italy won the match, but the actual outcome almost seemed immaterial once Zidane had struck his galvanizing blow.
Nothing even remotely as dramatic takes place in "Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait." The film records a 2005 match between Real Madrid and Villarreal which Real Madrid won handily. The final score is irrelevant, though. The game had no interest for the directors, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno. One player did. They trained 17 cameras on Zidane, playing for Real Madrid, and followed him throughout the game.
We watch almost entirely in real time. The game is observable only insofar as it swirls around Zidane. He's seen on a monitor, in long shot, medium shot, tracking shot - and most often in close-up, not just of his face, but also legs, arms, trunk.
On screen, Zidane stands outside of time - even as on the pitch time shapes his every move. He also seems to stand outside of feeling. Emotion is, at best, a distraction, and he displays a monumental impassivity. He shows not a flicker of reaction when he sets up a goal with a magnificent pass. Conversely, when he and his teammate Ronaldo share a grin it's as lovely as when "The Wizard of Oz" breaks into color.
For extended stretches, one can lose oneself, mesmerized, as Zidane fills the screen, patrolling his sea of green. Then the self-awareness of the filmmakers will intrude - a jarring shift in sound, an abrupt switch in perspective - and the trance-spell is broken. Worst of all, to fill halftime, there's a montage of that day's news events. The hypnotic, dreamlike beauty "Zidane" has during long takes gets squandered. One trembles to think what a Max Ophuls or Theo Angelopoulos might have done with this.
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.