The cinema, images which dance
1/26/10

Zidane’s ballet

In referring to the documentary Zidane, un portrait du XXIe siècle, by Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon, Dick Tomasovic latches onto another essential question. In this film, shot in 2005 during a match in the Spanish Liga, we see nothing but the footballer, at the centre of the attention of 17 cameras. But the directors have deliberately erased all the moments when Zidane touches the ball: "we see Zidane skipping, scampering, smiling, raising his eyebrows, looking into the distance, sweating, spitting, running, slowing down, making efforts (...) But the strong choice made by this film is to not grasp the match, to bypass what is at stake in it."

"This film is almost a definition of the danced act," explains the researcher. "The gesture is danced when it is subtracted from the utilitarian, from any intention. The gesture without intention is a danced one. In this film all the useful gestures have been deducted. All we see are movements in the act of waiting, completely detached from the ordinary gestures of a footballer who is normally totally full of intention. And then all that remains is this ‘radiance’, this presence. We are here in a state of suspension, which has led some to say that the dancer is already dancing before having started. And that when he has finished dancing something remains in the space."

This fascinating dive into the complex and deep relationships between dance and cinema, of which we have here been able only to offer a brief glimpse, enables Dick Tomasovic to invite each and every one (film makers but also the general public) to "look for new tools within dance to design and watch cinema."Because, as he reminds us, if "cinema has never forgotten dance," it has still not got over the trauma which was the passing from silent to talking cinema. "It was a trauma because it imposed a system which has hardly shifted since and functions, to put it briefly, through the dialogue and the psychology of the characters. The cinema before that was much more diversified and exploratory. It had a much tighter relationship with the gesture. And that cinema was killed off too early: it didn’t have the time to go to the end of its investigations. The talkies imposed theatre people on it, and the idea of ‘staging.’  But my hunch is that the advent of the ‘small screens’ (television, internet, mobile phones, computers) will doubtless compel producers to diversify their aesthetic approaches. The diversification of formats might lead to the disappearance of this hegemony of the close-up in which people speak."And the return of the dancing gesture, image, camera, and even film maker. Because after all: what else is there to do?

(1) Kino-Tanz, L’art chorégraphique du cinéma, Presses Universitaires de France, Collection Travaux Pratiques, 2009.

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