Sunday, December 31, 2006

Zidane, Un Portrait du 21e Siecle


Perhaps enough has been said about this film and even more has been said about Zidane over the past year. Still, I find it worth writing about, for the sake of this new wave of 'art cinema' that makes attempts at cinematic cubism.

Note: If you hate soccer stop reading.

When Douglas Gordon and Phillipe Parreno approached Zidane with their idea he asked them rather unassumingly , 'why me?'. The idea was, to dissect an 'enigma' by capturing him in his element. Zidane is undoubtedly in his element in this film. We see him playing football and collecting a red card, quite reminescent of the 2006 world cup final, but all attempts at unearthing the man behind the enigma remain nascent and experimental. When one watches a David Lynch film for the first time, it makes no sense. When one watches a David Lynch film for the second time, it starts to make some sense. The same cannot be said about this one.

'Zidane, Un Portrait du 21e Siecle' (Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait) unfolds during a Primera Liga match between Real Madrid and Villareal, on the 23rd of April 2005. Seventeen high definition cameras were employed to focus on the subject of the film, Zinedine Zidane. Zidane is as much a spectator to the game as he is a player. He stands aside, studying the game, stalking his opponents and shouting 'aiee' to his teammates when he wants them to pass him the ball. The perpetual frown on his face deepens with frustration. The slow decline of team play in Real Madrid is evident, it's written all over Zidane's face. He mutters to himself, to the refree, to the opponents and sometimes to Raul and Roberto Carlos. He picks up dibbits from the ground and pushes them back in. He shakes his head disdainfully when the other team is awarded a free kick. The only reward from all of this is Zidane's unflincing brilliance, his sublime footwork and his concentration. The film also contains snapshots of events taking place in the world on the same day. The most eerie being that of violence in Iraq, and of a little boy ,in the midst of the carnage, wearing a 'Zidane' jersey. Somewhere towards the end, we get to see Zidane smile when Roberto Carlos seems to say something hilarious. Almost moments later we see a cloud descending over him as he charges with clenched fists at an opponent. He is then given a red card. He trudges towards the dressing room, head down, removing his wrist band with slow, measured movements(I believe this sounds familiar.) and getting quite an ovation from the crowd and the other players.The film couldn't have been released at a better time.

The film engages, mesmerises and intimidates. It rises and falls like a James Joyce novel. The soundtrack by Mogwai is hypnotic and unarguably one of the film's hallmarks. The film fails, however, to unravel Zidane. Zidane is still the enigma, the laconic genius with a brewing temper and the 'grimace of a serial killer'. Maybe it's all for the best. If we knew him better, he would be the same as everybody else.

ps: If you have skipped the review and landed here, it's really a lot like a wildlife film.

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