The Firm. No, not the Tom Cruise movie from 1993 about a sinister law firm. This is a British TV film from 1988 (recently remade by Nick Love) about soccer hooligans. It stars Gary Oldman as the leader of a gang of soccer fanatics who get their jollies battling rival crews. This ugly side of the fandome, where team rivalry becomes an excuse for violence and thuggery, is an unfortunate reality in big soccer nations. This is a brutal, unsentimental film.
In preparation for the 2010 World Cup kick-off this Friday, we’ll look a four soccer films. First up is Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno. Who was this movie made for? Not soccer fans. You don’t see much of the game (Real Madrid v Villarreal), and it doesn’t showcase Zizou’s mad skillz (you can see oodles of clips on the net). Instead you have a meditation, shot with 17 stadium cameras intercut with TV broadcast footage and playing against a soundscape of crowd noise that fades in and out of a soundtrack by Mogwai. Titles in all caps pop up randomly, banal phrases like: MY MEMORIES OF GAMES AND EVENTS ARE FRAGMENTED.
Much of the time a camera tracks Zidane in a medium shot as he strolls, jogs or runs, the game flowing around him, his expression unreadable. He’s got a great face for inscrutability: deep set eyes hidden in the darkness under formidable brows, fierce cheekbones and a hawk-like nose. The portrait is one of disconnect, solitude, stoicism. The player is rootless, unknowable, moving with unknown purpose through and around a crowd. Some of his players work with him, others against him. In the end, there is a scuffle and our hero is ejected.
It’s an odd movie. You can watch it here.