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Before the game is after the game
A capsule UK Blu-ray review of
ZIDANE, A 21ST CENTURY POTRAIT / ZIDANE, UN POTRAIT DU 21E SIÈCLE
by Slarek
 

Of all the films in Artificial Eye's back catalogue, Gordon Douglas Philippe Parreno's experimental portrait of footballer Zinédine Zidane was not one I expected to see get an early Blu-ray re-release. It's not that I have a problem with the film, which I found captivating in both its cinema and DVD incarnations, it's just I can't imagine that too many of even its more ardent fans have been itching for the extra bit of picture sharpness that HD can bring, unless they have a thing for Zidane himself, of course. But in common with the label's simultaneous Blu-ray release of The Double Life of Veronique, that HD upgrade is not just about the picture. As with Kieslowski's film, the soundtrack is every bit as crucial to the film's effectiveness as the imagery, and like the previous DVD release of Kieslowski's film, has a fine 5.1 surround track to build on.

As with Veronique, I'm not sure I've anything new to add to my original DVD review, which you'll find here, complete with an extended moan about the negative and sometimes hypocritical reaction to the film, which I fully stand by. By all means dislike or even hate the movie, but don't tell me I shouldn't be allowed to see it in the cinema because the idea of it playing there irks you. Indeed, like Bill Morrison's mind-bending Decasia, the cinema remains the best place to view Zidane, sitting in the front row where the screen fills even your peripheral vision (oh the wonders of the scope frame) and the sound assaults you from on high like the music from a cathedral organ. The problem with home viewing is that unless you're sitting two feet from a 70-inch plasma then the image can no longer fill your field of view, and with that pause button within arm's reach and the kitchen next door it's all too easy to stop for five minutes to brew up or grab another beer. The spell may not be completely broken, but it will be diluted.

And that's where the 5.1 and the new DTS-HD soundtrack come in, enveloping the viewer with a clarity and volume that can give a good few cinemas a run for their money. It's a key reason for my complete engagement with Zidane even on the smaller screen, lifting me from the sofa and placing me in the stadium and at one point even inside of Zidane's head.

Watching it again after a three-year gap, the film proved as intriging and immersive as ever, despite being now stripped of that first-viewing element of uncertainty and surprise. Blu-ray does bring the experience a little closer to the feel of that first cinema screening, though the fact that I have a somewhat larger TV and a more powerful amp may also have something to do with it.

sound and vision

Shot on a combination of Super-35 film and HD video, the image on the previous DVD release was always solid, but the improvements in definition on the Blu-ray upgrade do show, most dramatically in the extreme wide shots of the stadium interior, where the level of detail can be eye-popping. The improvement is less obvious in close-ups and mid-shots of Zidane on the move, precisely because he is on the move, the combination of character and camera motion and constantly adjusting focus making it harder to appreciate the improved resolution. As with the DVD, the contrast is a little high, but true to the lighting conditions and how the film played in the cinema.

You can choose between 2.0 LPCM stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks (although I had some trouble switching from the stereo to the surround on the fly on the review disc). As with the DVD, it's the surround track that wins hands down, a more inclusive experience that places you slap in the middle of the stadium and boasts a seductive breadth and clarity that tops even the DVD's 5.1 track. The distinctive bass thump of boot making contact with ball is particularly well served here.

extra features

As with the Artificial Eye Blu-ray release of The Double Life of Véronique, this is essentially the previous DVD release given a BD upgrade with exactly the same special features. For details of what's included check out that review here. The only additional extra, if you can call it that, are five trailers for other Artificial Eye Blu-ray releases, which is essentially a product promotion and nothing to do with this film or its production.

summary

As a Blu-ray upgrade, Zidane is a tougher sell than Véronique – the picture is very good, the sound excellent, but only the film's most devoted fans are likely to feel the need to improve on the technical specs of what was a very solid DVD release, which will still deliver the audio-visual goods if your home cinema system is up to the job. For first-timers the BD release definitely has the edge in the fullness of its surround track and the sharpness of the picture – a couple of the wide shots genuinely prompted me to pause the picture and marvel at the detail – but it still remains an odd choice for the HD upgrade given the rich back-catalogue of titles this particular distributor had to choose from.

Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait
Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle

France/Iceland 2006
96 mins
directors
Gordon Douglas
Philippe Parreno
starring
Zinédine Zidane

Disc details
region code unspecified
video
2.35:1 anamorphic
sound
2.0 LPCM stereo
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
languages
French
subtitles
English
extras
Interview with Zinédine Zidane
Interview with Philippe Parreno & Douglas Gordon
Making-of documentary
Cannes introduction
Trailer
Stills gallery
Biographies
distributor
Artificial Eye
release date
22 March 2010
review posted
3 April 2010

related review
Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait [DVD review]

See all of Slarek's reviews