The Daily Zidane: Zizou on Film!
click here. And for a review of the piece, click here or read below. Finally…by popular demand…Zizou y Figo. Be still the quiver. Chronicle of a disgrace foretold The act of rage that brought Zinedine Zidane"s career to a shocking finale was foreshadowed in a remarkable new film. Jason Solomons hails a unique portrait of the French footballing icon, while Observer writer Andrew Hussey, who has interviewed Zidane remembers the pride and intensity that marked the essence of his character. Jason Solomons and Andrew Hussey Sunday July 16, 2006 The Observer Art often imitates life. There are, however, certain occasions when art prefigures reality. The peculiar events surrounding Zinedine Zidane and his headbutt at the end of the World Cup final seven days ago - an act that signalled the final moment in his illustrious career - had been eerily foreshadowed in film. Zidane, Un Portrait du 21e Siecle, premiered at this year"s Cannes Festival on the day the bedraggled French squad assembled to begin training for the World Cup. The screening opened with a short recorded message from the team"s captain and figurehead Zidane, who sent apologies for being unable to attend but hoped we"d enjoy this portrait of him. The film became a festival highlight, a unique, 90-minute study of a working man - Zidane playing for Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium before 80,000 fans against an obdurate Villareal side in an ordinary match in Spain"s Primera Liga on 23 April 2005. Zidane"s every move, breath and emotion was captured by 17 different cameras trained on him alone for the entire match, a project created by two artists, Turner Prize-winning Scot Douglas Gordon and Frenchman Philippe Parreno. Their portrait - its British premiere is at the Edinburgh Film Festival next month - is remarkable enough in itself, picturing the subject with all the detail, poise and human compassion of a Velasquez or a Degas. It"s a work that pierces the soul of the human condition but, more significantly now, it also describes a narrative arc of uncanny prescience. "It"s given our film a shot in the arm," says Gordon, who was at the match in Berlin. "I didn"t see the incident, nor did most people in the stadium. It was off the ball, out of shot. Nobody there could work out why Zizou had been sent off. I was terribly upset yet I couldn"t help think that I"d seen it all before in our film. It gave me goosebumps." In the game recorded in Gordon"s film, the footballer is, as ever, the fulcrum, the metronome dictating the pace, opening it up and providing it with two moments of controlled beauty, supplying the burst of acceleration to beat two defenders and waving his magic wand of a left foot to deliver the perfect cross that levels the score in an eventual 2-1 victory. But at the end of this game in which we"ve seen him sweat, feint, flick, swivel, struggle and triumph, Zidane suddenly loses control and charges into what becomes a mass brawl (the provocation for which remains out of shot). At the end of this definitive portrait, Zidane is shown the red card by a referee and finishes the match with a long, lonely walk past his team mates and down the tunnel. The film ends as he disappears. Watching the sudden lunge last Sunday was like watching the film again - France, Les Bleus, were even wearing white, the same colour as Real Madrid - and the two images of the departing idol, his name emblazoned across stooped shoulders, blended into one. Had Zidane written his own epilogue? Was he, with that battering-ram butt, taking fate into his own hands, ensuring that history would remember him, as in the filmed portrait, a man alone? His French team were heading towards one ineluctable ending, but he, Zizou, the nation"s talisman for nearly a decade, would perhaps be author of his own script. It was as if this unexpected World Cup Final appearance, secured by Zidane"s resurrection against Spain, Brazil and Portugal, were a palimpsest of Gordon and Parreno"s portrait. "He"s a very smart guy and I wouldn"t put that past him," says Gordon. "Philippe rang me immediately to say he knew it would happen, that something was going on in those eyes we"d spent over a year watching in an edit suite. Zidane shapes his own destiny." Throughout the compelling narrative of the World Cup, and for the duration of the film, Zidane gives a performance that leave spectators dazzled by human virtuosity yet baffled by its frailty. One thinks of the footballing philosopher Albert Camus, like Zidane, a son of Algeria and France. Not of his famous quote about learning everything about life from football, but of his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, the legend who was condemned to forever push his rock to the top of the mountain only to watch it roll back past him. Zidane, the legendary, lonely, long-distance footballer, certainly spent much of that final against Italy carrying the ball towards the opposition penalty area only to see it repelled. Zizou did give one interview about the film prior to Cannes. "I didn"t get the red card on purpose," he said. "I would have preferred not to get one at all but these things happen. I wasn"t thinking about the cameras. You do at first but then you simply forget they"re there. I agreed to do the film because I wasn"t an actor, I didn"t have to play a role. I just did what I usually do on the field. But I recognise myself in this portrait. It"s really me and that"s exactly what I live every day at work." Gordon, however, is not so sure. "Zizou was traumatised by his sending off when we saw him after the game. But he knew all about what we were trying to do and he was immediately very conscious of what ending he"d given the film. Every player on the pitch knew about the film but the referee only gave final permission for us to do it 30 minutes before the kick off. In fact, the Villareal manager had threatened to ruin the whole thing as he thought it unfair on his team. I don"t know if that meant they deliberately tried to get him sent off or not. Every team tries to wind up Zidane because of who he is." Gordon and Parreno, who came up with the idea for their Zidane film while playing keepy-uppy at an exhibition in Jerusalem in 1997, had seen the 1962 film of Brazilian legend Garrincha made by Cinema Novo pioneer Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, which pictures the player as an expression of the oppressed black underclass. They showed the film (entitled Garrincha, Alegria do Povo) to Zizou on a laptop in the Real Madrid dressing room a few days before filming. "That was when he realised the power and the legacy his own film could have," says Gordon. Previously the pair had spent years getting close to Zidane. Getting him to agree to the film took, says Gordon, 18 visits from his home in New York to Madrid. "We only met with Zizou about four times all told, but it was all very political to get to him and to gain his trust. The first time we met, we only talked about football, to show him our passion was the same as his. I got very excited and told him about a goal I"d scored when I was 10 years old in primary school, a half-volley that was similar to his goal that won the Champions League for Real Madrid in Glasgow in 2002. The way he looked at me then, I thought we"d blown it. I only learned a few months later that that was what had basically clinched it." The groundwork involved hiring Darius Khondji as director of photography (the Iranian-born Frenchman who shot Delicatessen and Se7en) and 17 camera operators. The day before filming, Gordon and Parreno took the crew to an exhibition at Madrid"s Prado museum. "It was of Goyas and Velasquezes and that was when we all saw how close an image on canvas and an image on screen can be. It gave everyone an idea to hold in their heads, the strange triangular relationship between artist, subject and viewer." A French journalist close to Zidane believes that "Douglas"s film is now a true portrait of Zizou. His actions in the Final stand as testament to the earlier work of art. The violence would not have surprised anyone who knows Zizou - he acted like a human being, not a star. "People see themselves in him and they would have reacted the same way if it was a question of the honour of their family. Nothing is more precious to Zizou than that. For France, Zizou is a child of the Republic, a product of colonialism and a legacy of Napoleon. We French see his reaction as a magnificent message." Roland Courbis, Zidane"s early mentor, perhaps best sums up the public reaction. "Zidane proved in the World Cup Finals that he is not a God. He is merely a superman." Zinedine Zidane, A 21st-Century Portrait, premieres at the Edinburgh Film Festival on 19 August and goes on general release in September.