a 21st Century Portrait

A film by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno

Imperial Cinema
1432 Bleury Street

March 29, 2007 - 7:00 pm


Art and sport come together in an unforgettable portrait of soccer superstar Zinédine Zidane.

“Sublime… the greatest film about football ever made.” – Jason Solomons, The Observer (U.K.)

Weeks before the headbutt that baffled the world, Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle premiered at the Cannes Film festival. The all-action portrait of football superstar Zinédine Zidane plunges us into an actual match between Real Madrid and Villarreal on April 23, 2005 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The lone, elegant and intensely focused figure of Zidane is set against the roar of 80,000 spectators in attendance. We study Zidane’s face, movements, and extraordinary poise, from the first kick of the ball to when he leaves the field at the end of the match, presciently red-carded. Made by two acclaimed visual artists, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, the film is both a new form of portraiture and a sports spectacle for a broad viewing public. Under the supervision of acclaimed cinematographer Darius Khondji (Seven), seventeen synchronized cameras were used, mixing 35mm and High Definition, each focusing solely on Zinedine Zidane in real time, during a real – and often unremarkable – game. Anger, regret and joy movingly leak out of Zidane’s impassive face as he is simultaneously observed from all sides. The film lasts as long as the match does, a little over 90 minutes. A mesmerizing portrait of a man at work, we see the legend running and in repose, muttering and thinking, spitting and swearing, waiting and watching – and throughout we watch Zidane’s watchfulness. The film bears witness to the engagement, seriousness and effort of a man fully “in the present”. Enhanced by Mogwai’s haunting music, the majestic sound design recreates the sensorial environment of the large crowd as well as the isolated sounds of cleats on the pitch. This all-enveloping perspective allows us to enter into a multidimensional space where the emotion, psychology and body of a moving athlete are made vividly manifest.


Douglas Gordon is a Glasgow-born, New-York-based artist who works mainly with photography and video. He was awarded the Turner-Prize in 1996 and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1997. Gordon has exhibited extensively around the world, including major museum shows at the MoMA in New York, the Hayward Gallery in London and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington.

Philippe Parreno is a Paris-based writer and conceptual artist whose work is concerned with the nature of images and new narrative forms. He is a regular contributor to Domus magazine and writes for many other publications. His work is in major collections including MoMA New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, the San Francisco MoMA, and the Museum of the 21st Century (Japan).


© Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno