Friday, September 29, 2006

New pieces up at the London Review of Books

include Paul Myerscough's reflections on Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno's film Zidane, which sounds a fascinating exercise in point-of-view):

The film is 90 minutes long, a real-time record of a single football match made with 17 cameras placed at different vantage points in the Bernabéu, all of them trained exclusively on Zidane. We see the kick-off on a television monitor; but the film camera immediately draws nearer to pick out Zidane, who blurs and dissolves as the frame narrows still further; his gait and monk-pattern baldness are easy to recognise even as he fragments into countless green, red and blue pixels. The point is made: the galáctico, like any modern celebrity, is available to us only through his mediation, and the more pervasive his image, the more frustratedly we recognise that he remains finally opaque, unreachable. The film begins and ends with a neat ideogram, a superimposition of the letters of Zidane’s name: the effect of his total presence is to obscure him completely.

This may be the idea the film starts out with; it is not what makes it compelling. Watching Zidane at work in this way is an extraordinary experience. He is in possession of the ball for only a tiny fraction of the game, a total of perhaps two minutes or less. Much of what he does in those two minutes is exhilarating. In one moment, he leaps and curves his body in the air to catch a long, high ball at his midriff, killing its speed so that it drops to the turf at his feet; in another, he feints to cross the ball with his left foot and in the same motion releases it in the opposite direction with his right; again and again, he carries the ball at speed into the heart of Villarreal’s defence, guarding and propelling it with delicate touches as the defenders back-pedal before him. These sudden bursts of movement – in which Zidane, however frantic the activity around him, retains an absolute poise – are the only moments when the action of the game coincides with what we see. Between times, we watch him as he stalks the field, tracking the ball and waiting.

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