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Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle offers an unusual and surprisingly thoughtful experience, providing a sense of the frustration and isolation of a legendarily talented footballer, but little more.
The film begins with a silent first 15 minutes observing Zidane's skill and movement. It feels rather like you're watching the Skysports player-cam and as such, is a little disappointing. Coupled with the initial jumping back to the perspective of a viewer watching at home, then returning back to the high quality camera POV's, it leaves you somewhat restless, as the director tries to create a hyperbole of space and reality. However, you soon become aware of the human ambiance; Zidane's heavy breathing, feet dragging on the grass like a stag before battle, the visceral crunches of hefty challenges; all creating a very tangible texture.
In a moment after the referee wrongly gives away a penalty, which the opposition score, Zidane approaches and speaks the words "You should be ashamed". Zidane's tone and presence makes this emphatic condemnation almost papal.
There are times in this film when one finds them self checking the time remaining on the DVD player. Whilst being able to appreciate Zidane's awesome touch and effortless ability, the footage is repetitive and too enclosed to really gather a true sense of Zidane's perspective. Those audiences who make it past the 15 minute mark are rewarded when Mogwai's splendid soundtrack kicks in and is complimented by Zidane's subtitled monologue. Here, you really appreciate the fact that they didn't choose an English footballer as their subject. The delicate manner in which french translates, provides a poetic and cinematic syntax. We English are very wasteful with our words and I'm sure if we were hearing David Beckham's thoughts, we would be more spurious at the lack of numerous mentions of "Obviously", "You know" and "fantastic".
At half time the film installs context to the game displaying both violently moving images together with trivial incidents apparently going on elsewhere in the world whilst the game takes place. The intriguing suggestion is that the match, tied with fate, is pointless and memorable like all things.
In truth, after this point, the film has completed it's goal and as such, drags to the finish. The camera work seems dizzying and whilst the intention is to make the viewer feel Zidane's experience, it ultimately fails. Whilst we empathise with his irritation and patience, we are not rewarded like he is, with the thrill of being on the pitch. There is an absence of space and vision, which, would truly mimic his sensation.
Zidane's exit is practically welcome when he is sent off ten minutes before the match finishes, but he leaves with a poetic sense of irony. After a game of fisticuffs, his hot head landing him in trouble like it did at World Cup 2006, we are left with an emotive sense of futility, his sending off - a metaphor for mortality, leaving the pitch to a hero's applause.
I think the film could have benefited from more subtitled speech from Zidane and with the extension of the soundtrack lasting from start to finish. But what hampers this film is it's lack of creating the true experience of space and vision in a football game, in truth, the attempt to re-create Zidane's frustration at not receiving the ball on time and having his passes clumsily lost, is overwhelmed by our frustration at the sense of claustrophobia and detachment.
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