Archive for June 18th, 2009


Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait. The best football film ever.

hey, aqui, AQUI!

On April 23, 2005, 17 of the world’s most adept cinematographers and sound engineers descended upon the Bernabeu and focused all of their talents on just one man; Zinedine Zidane. The result is a film that will at times move you, cause you to wander off into your own head, and in the end shock you.

The film has only seen limited theatrical release in the United States and I missed my chance to see it at the IMAX in Seattle and again when it came to Tacoma’s little art house theater. I had been kicking myself ever since. But, I thought in my arrogant American way, it will come out on DVD and I’ll just buy it.  Silly American… I’ve now been waiting 2 years for this film to be released as a region 1 DVD and frankly, I can’t see it ever happening. If it does, I will gladly buy the film. Hell, if any of my readers have a line on where I can get the region 1 disk (legally) I will buy two and give one away here. It’s worth it. This is, after all, my favorite movie since I saw Blade Runner over 20 years ago.

It probably seems like a minor detail because I’d bet a lot of you have universal DVD players, but the fact is that the DVD player attached to my TV is pretty old and won’t play region 2 disks.  VLC player, on my computer, however, is completely universal and that’s what I settled on. So, I went to my local library and put in a request to have the film sent to me from one of the consortia libraries and one week later I got the region 2 DVD: I wasn’t going to pay for a disk I couldn’t play at home, but I really, REALLY wanted to see the film.

It was worth it.

It’s funny. It’s not so much a film as it’s just a piece of art. I mean, yes, there’s a plot but only because football has a plot in a sense. You have your protagonist (Zidane) your antagonist (Marcos Senna) and all sorts of characters coming in and creating all sorts of plot twists (Beckham, Fat Ronaldo, the Ref, etc) but the movie is almost too linear to be a story. Does that make any sense?

It’s more like Warhol’s movie of people sleeping than a story in the traditional sense, but it does have a story and there is character development in a way that most movies now days seem to lack. I guess it’s the story of one day — a day like any other. There’s a bomb going off in Baghdad, there’s a war in Africa. People give speeches they think are important, sign treaties, forget to take the kettle off.  And then, that night, in Madrid, there’s 93 minutes when Real Madrid hosted Villareal and for those 93 minutes that’s all there is going on in the world.

Along the way we learn the subtlety of Zizou, the quiet, what he thinks about while he plays, his grace, his power, his touch, his focus, and his faults. We see the way he kicks the ground with his toes as he paces about the pitch like an animal on the prowl. And through the magic of those magnificent artists behind the camera and the microphone, we hear the roar of the crowd one minute and then next they filter all that out and all we hear is the zen-like breath of Zizou, the thump of the ball as he makes a pass, and the quiet muffled sound of the man as he dribbles around pretty much everyone else on the pitch.

This experience is only heightened by the Mogwai soundtrack, which brilliantly carries us into quiet moments and then loudly heralds moments of action.

Footballistically speaking the film is a masterpiece as well. Zidane’s touch is amazing, I don’t think he lost the ball once, and his reading of the game is spot on. Quietly pacing the pitch, pointing where he wants the ball, accepting the ball and either dribbling around the defender or making the correct pass to a teammate. It’s the perfect portrait of Zidane, the zen master, at the top of his game.

His antagonist is incredible to watch as well. If Zidane is the contemplative, purposeful predator, then Marcos Senna is the perfect all action foil. Marking Zidane the whole game, hell he seems to be marking everyone plus Zidane, Senna is the type of no nonsense, all action, crunching, yet deft passing midfielder that every Arsenal supporter has begged Wenger to buy since Patrick Vieira said his good byes.

If you love the game, if you play the game, you will love this film. If you love film, you will love this film. I can’t recommend it enough.

This is a film you can, no, should, get lost in.

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June 2009