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Issue 200

‘Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait’: an Experimental Documentary Masterpiece

‘I would like to dedicate this tribute to all of Zidane’s fans (of whom I am one)’

BY Violaine Boutet de Monvel in Fan Letter , Film | 13 FEB 19

Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, 2006. Courtesy: Studio lost but found, Berlin, Studio Philippe Parreno, Paris, Anna Lena Films, Paris

49,686! That’s the number of tickets sold across France within a week of the theatrical release of Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006). This experimental masterpiece was filmed with 17 synchronized cameras that were installed around the stadium and trained on Zinédine Zidane, the French football superstar, then playing for Real Madrid. To put things in perspective: that same year, Matthew Barney – who was, at the time, better known than Gordon and Parreno – also infiltrated mainstream cinema with his surrealist film Drawing Restraint 9 (2006), which starred his partner, the pop star Björk. Yet, it sold only 35,838 tickets in the US over the course of an entire year.

I would like to dedicate this tribute to all of Zidane’s fans (of whom I am one). We got to watch him play at the heart of a game he seemed completely estranged from, in what turned out to be the most breathtaking conceptual work I’ve ever had the chance to experience in such non-elitist conditions.

Violaine Boutet de Monvel is an art critic and translator, based in Paris, France.