Date:Monday September 8 2008
Layer Road`s Last Rites
Last week a release date of October 22nd 2008, was announced for the much-anticipated Layer Road movie. Yet a shockingly sticky slogan from another football film seems most fittingly to describe the state funeral status the U`s old home still gets. That phrase: for as long as it lasts, for as long as it takes.
In Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, as is presumably true with Colchester`s soon to-be-premiered picture, you are ushered along by the alluring footage with a promise that the reel will refreshingly capture just the game. That is the encounter, the event - pure soccer, leaving those looping personality-based narratives behind to scream for attention in the dressing room sin-bin.
Through the cut-and-fade flickery of 17 cameras, via glaring white light, you soon see it is not simply about the match. Fine, that clue may have been in the title all along but, as Zidane`s every spit, shimmy and shake in the pristinely perfect kit of Real Madrid white is transmitted through an entire LaLiga face-off, inner wonderment and suspension collide.
Zizu`s brooding presence as a one-man brand at the forefront of the fixture raises conflicting questions although, chiefly, the now-retired round ball juggler shows why acolytes wax endlessly about his on-field acumen. Over the course of one game, we see the sublime nature of his greatness amplified in an assist on goal that leaves three opponents trailing. Cue the ridiculous, too, when he exits prematurely thanks to a red card.
Like when observing vintage war propaganda, the mind fizzes throughout this screening at the question of how contrived it all is. As the game clock ticks, suspicion`s seesaw swings. Until, that is, you become so ensconced by the atmosphere and narrative that actual reflection of reality ceases to matter.
It helps that our man is clothed in Madrid`s majestic garb, of course; somehow the precise clarity and crispness of the shirt, shorts and socks all smack of an absolute perfection, something pure and almost otherworldly.
So, does the video undermine or illuminate the skill behind what is, at the most basic, kicking a spherical object between two sting bags on stilts? A bit of both, actually, because Zidane`s almost reptilian but strategically slow jives during the game`s first quarter are submerged by flashes of second-half brilliance.
That he gives the illusion of not doing much as he ghosts around the pitch, yet sheds sweat like it is going out of fashion, probably suggests an underestimation of the physical exertion behind his desecrate zigzag routine. Truthfully, he is working bloody hard.
This shoot encases in just one match all the romance ever associated with Zidane`s illustrious career, also revealing an underlying poise behind his patient pitch grafting. As his alternative ballet sequence captures our imagination, bringing reason in toe, the documentary becomes a potentially dangerous artefact.
Cricketer Ed Smith wrote that the picture was mostly unglamorous, everyday and humdrum stuff. He is partly right. The cameras act as a tripping hall of mirrors, creating deceptive viewer intimacy that allows Zidane`s presumed extra sensory perception to flourish.
Still, if we believe in the blockbuster portrayal absolutely, it is because we want to. Or rather, because we do not want to believe an opposite truth, which would mean conceding that the finest French footballer in a generation was merely mortal, instead of the game`s answer to an Almighty.
One image that takes a bat to Zidane`s assumed deity status for those watching is his habitual dragging of feet on the Spanish turf: Gods float, remember, while the rest of us keep on walking.
That realisation alone betrays another more brutal fact: Zidane is replaceable, as well as human. Since his skills are already grainy in the public consciousness, just over two years after the midfielder danced after his final football fling, the revelation is lamentably believable.
The same messages apply to Layer Road`s pending motion picture, of course, which had a smaller budget. Do not, in essence, let the charm of the rendering seduce you into believing that fact and fiction have switched places.
Colchester`s celebratory production, if watched through rose-tinted glasses, could breed some unhealthy myths, such as an idea that things were unconditionally better in the past, or that they can never improve, be as good as they used to.
Be warned that nostalgia`s blinding haze is a blinker for our judgement at times like these.
Take the Zidane example. He was a great player, sure. Many say the most mesmerising central attacker to grace the game since Diego Maradonna, in fact.
It is just that new heirs will surpass him, in the same way Western Homes has already consigned Colchester United`s old place to the scrapbook. The point is that the process has already begun, even if the memory of Layer Road continues to bask in the long sunset of sentiment.
Enjoy the film, when it airs, this autumn; ask for tissues over popcorn, if you must. The reel-clicking movie in Britain`s oldest town will project something long-since blown to smithereens, after all, so we should expect a reaction of something between tears and applause.
Just highlight October 22nd as the day Layer Road will be read her last rites, finally. Remember to say goodbye. Goodbye for as long as it lasts and, yes, for as long as it takes.
Date:Monday September 8 2008
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