An intriguing premise for a full-length feature, the idea behind Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is simple. Back in April of 2005, Real Madrid–replete with Zinedine Zidane, arguably the world’s finest footballer at the time–played Villareal in the Spanish league. At that game, seventeen cameras were all trained on Zidane.
The film? At heart, it’s 90 minutes of following the great man around a football field. Yet it’s fascinating. Really. Save for the odd subtitled comment, and a not-entirely-comfortable compilation of the day’s news that’s interspersed at half time, the focus is purely one man playing a game of football. It’s not a raging success by any means, and there are moments in Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait where the interest level significantly drops. Yet when it works, it really works astoundingly well, and you’d be hard-pushed to find any other film that does anything even vaguely similar. It’s backed, it should be noted, with excellent supporting music too.
The 2006 World Cup, of course, gave Zidane’s career an ending it never really deserved. And while Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait isn’t a dish that everyone’s going to warm to, those that do will surely be left reflecting on one of football’s greatest geniuses, rather than one mad moment in Germany. Turner Prize-winning artist and filmmaker Douglas Gordon teams up with French artist Philippe Parreno to create a work glorious in its simplicity.
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