Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)

Already outdated – ‘Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’ (2006)

This Zinedine Zidane documentary is not really a soccer movie but is actually a performance piece more suited for an art-house cinema or museum.

Artists and filmmakers Philippe Parreno (French-Algerian) and Douglas Gordon (Scottish) sought to create a cinematic portrait of a working man who was also the best soccer player in the world. They realized that the screen is about the same aspect ratio as a football field, and the length of a feature film is about the same as a match.

During the April 23, 2005 game between Real Madrid and Villareal, the filmmakers focus 17 cameras on the 34 year old Zidane and the pitch, recording his every touch and interaction. Scottish band Mogwai provides an original score. What the filmmakers apparently didn’t realize is that the average player only touches the ball 2-3 minutes in a soccer game, and this is pretty much what Zidane does.

Zen-like phrases run across the bottom of the screen, but they are often illegible, being white text on light background. The fan noise is muted, and you hear very few spoken words, I presume so you can focus on the music. And — spoiler alert — Zidane gets ejected towards the end of the game.

Not my cup of tea

Personally, this movie is not my cup of tea. I am the kind of person, when I go to an art museum, I walk away if a video piece takes longer than 30 seconds. I originally saw this movie in 2008 in a theater at the San Francisco Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where I slept through most of it. When I awoke, my friend told me I didn’t miss much. This second viewing was not much better. For 90 minutes of my time, I’d like to come away with more than a good nap.

To be honest, despite my innate objections, I did end up with a portrait of Zidane. He is a big guy with a build similar to Kaka. After the red card, his scowl is so dark and threatening, he looks like a thug about to mug you. He’s scary. He says “Hey!” a lot to his teammates (and others). I guess he doesn’t know their names. Besides not saying much, he doesn’t run much until the second half when they are behind. It was interesting to realize towards the end that Ronaldo, Beckham, Raul and Forlan were also on the pitch; that’s how much the filmmakers focus on their Zizou.

Technology obsoleted this film within 10 years

Another problem with this film is that it has not aged well. While 17 cameras trained on Zidane was a novelty in 2005, such 20th century technology has been rapidly eclipped. To capture a game up close there are now advances such as GoPro, Google Glass, OPTA for tracking players’ movement and passes, and probably up to a thousand smartphones. Someday, wearable cameras will be built into jerseys. Entitling this film as using 21st Century tech is a bit presumptuous.

2 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 2