Posted by Dusty Hoesly
Gordon and Parreno’s film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle) is a new kind of digital portraiture, melding athleticism and aestheticism. Filming an April 23, 2005 soccer match between Real Madrid and Villareal, the cameras follow one player, Zinedine Zidane, instead of following the ball, as televised sports programming does. He is under the microscope, in the spotlight, and on the big screen. Viewers might ask, what do we learn about this man by watching him play? Is this still exciting as sport? What does this moving picture say about the future of portraiture? What does it say about stardom?


Through different cameras we see his legs, his face and chest, part of the field, the whole field, the crowd, the stadium. One visual track follows the game live on TV, complete with Spanish language commentators. Another records a camera with its black-and-white feed visible in the background. Another captures Zidane vividly and audibly from the sidelines. We see his unsmiling focus, anticipating the ball, calling for it, running with it, shoving other players, shifting his legs. We watch him watch the ball, seeing his calf muscles and chest, in a sustained presentation of his masculinity and intensity. Of course we are also privy to the constant product placement logos on his jersey for Siemens and T-Mobile. The occasional soundtrack, by Mogwai, serves as an ambient counterpoint to the boisterous crowd, sometimes imbuing momentum into the action on the field.
At the end of the film, Zidane enters a tussle and receives a red card (perhaps an interesting preview and reflection upon his action at the end of the 2006 World Cup finale). Ejected from the game, he leaves the field, determinedly striding towards the locker room. A final subtitled quote from Zidane appears on the bottom of the screen: “Magic is sometimes very close to nothing at all.” Nothing much happens in this film, and some may be bored or fall asleep, but there is a magic in watching Zidane away from the ball, wanting it. Leaving the star of the film, a soccer star, the camera rolls towards the night sky and into the stars.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly