A portrait with fluidity | Preserving Zidane’s day of work on ‘the green of the field’

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The trailer from Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. The reference to cinema showings relates to the UK. At present, the film has received screenings in Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis; and Park City, Utah, as part of the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film is not currently listed on the Sundance Channel schedule.

For art-house and football film buffs in the United States, viewings of 2006 Cannes Film Festival entry Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait likely will be a private or slightly illicit affair.

Our copy arrived this week from the UK, where it was released to DVD on Jan 29. The disc comes encoded for Region 2, and we lack a multi-region DVD player; therefore, we had to view the film on a desktop computer screen. But the experience was no less intense than a cinematic viewing and, perhaps, accentuated the intimacy that filmmakers intended in training 17 cameras on Zinédine Zidane over an entire Real Madrid match versus Villareal in late April 2005.

Given the paucity of festival appearances for the movie stateside and as yet unformed plans for distribution, any larger-scale screenings will have to be undertaken with the heinous benefit of DVD conversion software. We do not advocate going this route, but we’re not going to condemn anyone wishing to share the experience with friends.

Goya’s self-portrait in India ink and wash (ca. 1800), at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, offers—perhaps à la Zidane (but with more hair)—“something of the Romantic sensation of the wildness of genius and the potency of the creative imagination,” according to Sarah Symmons in Goya (Phaidon, 1998).

In approaching the film, one must keep in mind that the last word in the English-language title, “portrait,” bears more importance than one might think. (At Cannes, where the film was an out-of-competition entry, it screened as Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle.) In a bit of serendipity considering the intent of filmmakers Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, the film crew was able to gain access to the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid on the morning of the game. There they studied portraiture by Spanish masters Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya along with work by the Dutch proto-surrealist Hieronymus Bosch.

For the 21st-century style of portraiture that they were attempting, the brushstrokes from earlier practitioners, albeit in a different medium, had to suffice in the absence of a storyboard and with few cinematic examples to which to turn for guidance. The directors do allude, from the art world, to 13 Most Beautiful Women by Andy Warhol (1964) and to Garrincha: Alegria do povo (Garrincha: Hero of the Jungle) (1962), from football, in plotting their influences. Parreno and Gordon, at the conceptual stage, showed Zidane portions of the Garrincha film in order to communicate their intent.

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