Friday, March 30, 2007

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait - feedback from du Nord readers who saw the film

Many soccer fans in the Twin Cities packed in to 6 showings of the Zidane feature last month. It was a huge theatrical success here, but I am not sure if the customers walked away satisfied.
It was presented at the Walker Art Center, which to me gave a strong hint that it was not going to be a straight footballing movie, or a even a bio pic. I knew it was coming from a more artistic bendt. And I thought all the prerelease propaganda made that clear. But then you realize the reason most propaganda works so well is that most people don't actually read it, they just see "Zidane" and they are sold.
Myself, I really enjoyed it. Yes it tested my will at times. But good art does that to me. I try not to react immediately, but let it sit in for a few days and see if I still care or not. And I did. I thought the editing was really good, even though it started to drag about 2/3's of the way in. They used too many tricks early on that could have helped speed up the film near the end. The sound editing blew me away, and I was surprised but not shocked to find a pretty ingenius musician I worked with 10 years ago was a consultant, Kevin Shields.
It was cool to see a true modern star of the sport through someone elses very different perspective.
Overall, was it great? No. Was it good? Most assuredly. Would I see it again? For sure. And I think you should too - as a fan of the beautiful game.

Here is what other du Nord readers thought:

Jesse, from the Twin Cities

For me the experience was a bit frustrating and I find myself of two minds about the film. When I heard the description that the film focused on Zidane and his play in a game from start to finish, I expected something that would allow the viewer to get closer to Zidane's perspective. With the title, "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait", I expected to get a view of the player that would give a sense of who he is as at least a player if not as a person. What I got instead was a lot of seeing Zidane reacting to things that were invisible to me. There simply was no context for his actions eliminating the possibility of coming to some understanding of him as a player. Overall it seemed tedious to watch Zidane stand around spitting and wiping sweat off his mug for 60/85 minutes of the game.

The sound of the film, unlike seemingly everyone else, bothered me a bit as well. Obviously it was technically done very well to be able to pick out every expectorate to issue from Zidane's mouth, every kick of the ball, etc amongst the crowd noise and everything else, but it also was a bit too isolating for me. To my tastes it made him seem disconnected from what was going on around him. And maybe he was that day, maybe it's just my own failing to not be able to understand a person without seeing their choices and actions in context.

However, as you said after the film, we did get a sense of who Zidane was as a player on that particular day in that through most of the first half he simply didn't put much effort into the game. He also seemed particularly joyless until late in the game when he joked around a bit with Roberto Carlos. It certainly seemed to explain a great deal about why he decided to retire not long after. It was also somewhat prescient with him getting bent out of shape over a relatively minor incident and getting sent off for taking a swing at an opponent. The selected quotes that were displayed at various points of the game also gave a feel for how Zidane felt more generally about playing in front of thousands of people and how the crowd affected him on the field.

Another thing the film did well was to put the game and Zidane into a more global context with the half-time photo montage. I found it interesting to see all of the things that happened on that day, none of which are remembered specifically by people not directly involved, a car bomb in Baghdad, a search and rescue mission for Turkish minors, 300 frogs in Germany mysteriously swelling to three times their normal size and exploding. But there in the aftermath of the car bombing on the edge of the frame is a Baghdadi wearing a Zidane shirt.

So perhaps the film did provide a nice snapshot of him during the final stages of his career, it just wasn't what I was looking for out of the film. It's really too bad none of the Thunder players came out to chat with us. I really kind of wonder what, if anything, a pro player, even at the USL D1 level, would get from the film that a fan wouldn't. Anyway, those are my hopefully semi-coherent thoughts on the film.

Ethan F

I have mixed feelings about the Zidane movie. I was hoping to see the intensity, focus, speed, physicality, finesse, skill, vision, and beauty of the game at the highest level. I thought that the movie did a good job of showing the first four, but I thought the moments of the last four were too few. This is partly due to Zidane's passive involvement in this particular game, but also due to the excessive focus on his feet, shins, and face.

This was clearly not intended to be a soccer movie, but a movie about a person. I am fine with that, but I got bored after a while and would have been much happier if they had reduced the number of walking/standing scenes and shown more of the great bird's eye full-field camera shots. That camera really showed the movement, skill, and teamwork necessary at football's top levels.

I thought that the best part of the whole thing might have been the spectacle. I went with six of my friends and it was clearly the place to be if you play or follow soccer. I saw people I hadn't seen in years; brought out not by another Walker movie, but by the chance to see a unique soccer experience. I think that most people would have liked for the movie to be a little more soccer and little less Walker, but at least it was provocative.

Todd B

I managed to sneak into the late show on Saturday and I'm so glad I did, as I didn't realize that it had sold out. I thought it was fascinating and a little maddening. The latter is likely a byproduct of my American upbringing - by shutting you out of the flow/detail of the game it denied you the visceral thrill of most sporting movies (and events) and while I'm certain that was a deliberate choice by the filmmakers it nevertheless frustrated me a little. That is really a minor quibble though, as images from the film continue to dance through my head even now (particularly the shots of his feet and how he would drag his toes as he walked - by the end of the film he wasn't doing this anymore). It seemed very much like a movie about a guy at work for much of it. he was clearly engaged and focused and knew what he was doing but there was an 'another day at the office' quality to his play. It was also interesting how little he spoke during the entire match and how little expression he exhibited (only the one smile to his teammate [Ronaldo?]) (editors note: actually it was Roberto Carlos). I also found it difficult to really follow what happened at the end there when he got tossed. I guess a lot of stuff was simmering under the surface - and we know how that usually works out (see World Cup final). I don't know if it was really a great "football" movie, as the game seemed secondary (or even tertiary) but it was very thought provoking.
Some additional random thoughts:
-At least 2 couples sitting near me left by the midway point. Not sure what they were expecting.
-I loved the music. Haven't listened much to Mogwai but I downloaded the soundtrack (legally) when I got home.
-Waiting to pay for parking the guy behind me asked if it was what I thought it would be. I told him that yeah, basically. I then asked him the same thing. He said it was what he expected, only not as cool.

Steve W

I was torn. I liked the fact that ‘art’ was being done with soccer as the subject. I liked the fact that we could bring the kids to The Walker to see something related to soccer. My problem, and that of most of the people we went with, was I am more of a soccer fan than an art fan. I appreciated what they were trying to do: They would contrast the pixilated TV vs. the large, real experience of being on the field. They would look at the cameras following the constant action vs. Zidane walking around not involved.
However said I would have enjoyed it more if it was there live or even watching just a televised performance of the game. I missed much of the game watching Zidane sweat. Crucial moments were either off camera or blocked by the wrong angle or other players and weren’t clear to me.
My second issue with it is I thought I understood the concept and didn’t think they were true to it. I thought I would see 17 cameras, synchronized and following Zidane in almost real time through every moment. Instead if felt kind of produced in that there is no way Zidane moved so little, especially in the first half and sweated like that. There were times we saw things 3 or 4 different ways (TV, other camera angles) and that time with Zidane. I tried to find the game on the internet but haven’t been able to yet. So I left wondering what I missed.

Ken the Keeper

I am by no means a movie buff, much less a critic. But in terms of film as an art, I would say that I felt the movie struggled at times. In fact I would say that they were fortunate to have chosen a game where Zidane is red-carded as a full 90 minutes of simply focusing on one player would have been too much. The music certainly helped to break up the monotony of the setting and to set a tone. I also believe that, although interesting, some of the occasional subtitles, including portions taken from Zidane interviews were, at times, oddly placed and seemingly unfitting for the chosen moment.
I would also expect that there were many soccer fans who attended who walked away disappointed, and since seeing the film I have spoken with a few. I think that is mostly their own fault for expecting that the film would provide some broader insight into Zidane’s skills and abilities on the field. And also for not being willing to let go of the actual match being played and try to focus on the film as an experiment in human motion and form within a broader context which is unseen but known
One thing that I did anticipate about the film, and which I do believe it delivered on, was the experience of being one player of 22 on a large field, and still the sense of isolation and loneliness that one can experience as a football player
As a goalie this is something that I can especially relate to as I spend every game with my teammates backs facing me and as someone who is usually ignored except when my services are required.
But I think this sense of isolation and loneliness can also be experienced by field players who often can go for minutes without any interaction with other players on the field.
And when they are playing in front of thousands of fans that sense of loneliness can be heightened due to the inability to communicate with other players via any other method than hand movements and head gestures.
So they often move about, seemingly uninvolved, waiting for the movement of the ball to involve them.
And then when the ball does come to their feet the isolation is even more heightened as all eyes are on that one player to see if they do the “right thing” with the ball.
Not doing so leaves one even more isolated.
I believe the film was able to express these feelings to those who had the capacity to understand them.
Out of 5 stars I give it a 2.7

dan g

the film was too slow, as was Zidane, until those moments when either he or the sound editing were dynamic. i thought he stood around a lot but his experience(and skill) also allowed him to capitalize on his chances. he seemed unexcited when he set up the first goal with a brilliant move beating several defenders. more of the same when the go ahead goal is scored late in the match.....but shit man, when that scuffle broke out he was all over it like jamie watson on -the -ground! Zidane ran many yards and promptly threw his body into the shoving he was excited!!! thinking back on wc 'o2 when he stomped on the saudi's leg and then his grand exit in germany it was revealing to me to see him show more emotion for fighting than for goals, victories or his team. he's a fantastic player but struggles with his anger( unlike michael richards who struggles with racism not anger). as the film went on the soundtrack became more annoying but earlier on it was strangely effective. i found myself thinking about using the bathroom and staying awake in a warm and crowded theater...i can't say i'd recommend it but i wouldn't aggressively discourage anyone from going. ciao brucio.....dang

Our Donovan

Once upon a time in the world there were highlight videos of World Cups; the best, in my opinion, being the '82 WC with Sean Connery doing the commentary with great camera and sound work. In that vein Zidane ranks quite high. The sound at times was great and the camera work at times was great. I expect to get the DVD if I can and I would show portions of it to my grandkids and other non-soccer types.

But, this movie was about one guy who was not in his best form and it got a bit long and dreary. However, the concept is good. One match, one player and we'll just show it to you come what may. So, the fault dear Brutus may be in us, not in the filmmakers. After all, why isn't the end-of-a-career match of a great player just as compelling as seeing him in his prime.

We (and not just the Sports Center we) are geared to mindless highlights that, in the end, tell us little about what we are seeing. Then again, even though I can't stand Sports Center or the FSC equivalent, during the last half hour or so I was both very impressed with what I was seeing and wishing it would just end.


it would be hard to call it a film about a soccer player. more or less it documented an athlete doing what his job. if you were a non soccer fan, you probably left disappointed or fell asleep during the screening (which i saw numerous people do anyways).
the text that was on the bottom during the course of the film was visually represented accurately. editing represented the game being fragments of memories quite well. considering the task, 17 cameras and all, the film was quite well edited pushing this point through. but as a soccer fan, i would have liked to see more of the ball. most of the shots seemed to be of the waist up, which added an interesting perspective, changing the focus of the game and all. and the feet! the dragging of the toes seemed to really bring Zidane back down to earth, trying to place him with us common folks. or it just showed that he was too lazy or exhausted to lift up his feet all the way. there were numerous times i found myself smiling from a farmers blow or from a rough tackle, but its the little things that count in football right?
the crowd was good. many many kids there. id love to chat with a few of them and get their take on it. if i was 12 and saw that, id probably hate soccer afterwards though.

Steve L

I thought it was fantastic, though I am a bit biased, being a huge Zidane fan.

The early shot of the stadium from field level was amazing!

The first part was slow paced with Zizou not on the ball much. As purely a sports film it would have been boring, but as a cinema portrait it was very interesting and contemplative.

When the pace picked up it just sucked me right in. I even found myself holding my breath at times. It was beautifully filmed, great soundtrack, and I think it managed to show many sides of the man.
Loved it. Want to own it.

Martha Fischer from The Offside - Serie A

I saw the movie at the Toronto Film Festival over the summer, and it pretty much blew me away -- I was impressed as much by its emotional power as anything else. (Rather than babble a new, I'll just point you to my review-- make of it what you will.)

The crowd was very cool and very mixed, as I'm sure you observed: In line, I was standing between a woman in a Zidane jersey and a man who knew nothing about soccer but was passionate about video art.


Blogger Michael said...

Doe anyone have information on a showing in the East Coast? Or a DVD release? (I know it has been released on DVD in Europe)

I believe they are shopping it around in hope of landing a distribution deal which leads me to believe that a DVD release is a ways away...

12:31 PM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Hola Bruce .. Enjoyed reading everyone's reactions to this movie, which I probably won't get to see until DVD ... Just wanted to let you know I'll be heading north in August for two Thunder games in the middle of the month .. It'll be great to see everyone again

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Ken said...

I noticed a few of the reviews mentioned the foot dragging portions of the film. I thought I would post what I posted on the Walker site in response to a question about this "behavior":

I thought I would answer the question about Zidane doing the foot dragging hitch when he walked because I have heard many “non-players” ask about it since seeing the film. I often do this when I play (but I am now realizing that I only do it when I play on grass - not when I play “indoor” soccer) and I have seen many other players do it. I can’t speak for why other players do it and I know that it has become a sub-conscious act for me. But I believe I do it to keep the tips of my toes up tight into the front of my boots so they feel tighter on my feet, allow me to “burst” into a run quicker when needed, and afford a better touch on the ball when I need to kick it. I also believe I do it more when my boots are wet due to playing on wet or dew-covered grass. Hope this makes sense…

9:05 PM  
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