Saturday, February 17, 2007
Last year I mentioned Vikash Dhorasoo's film project on his time spent at the World Cup with the French squad and also his subsequent dismissal by the dastardly Paris Saint-Germain. The film has now arrived and though it is not quite up to the majesty of Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parrano's film about his French teammate Zinedine Zidane, it is a likeable enough stab at a first film by the footballer.
Working with singer/songwriter and journalist Fred Poulet (yes, his name does mean 'Fred Chicken'), Dhorasoo documents mainly his own daily life during the tournament at the team's base in a chateau near Hanover. Despite playing in all the qualifying games, Dhorasoo found himself a fringe player at the tournament itself due to the arrival of wonder kid Franck Ribéry, whom, it is believed was imposed on the team, just as Fabien Barthez, was, by an insistent Zidane. Dhorasoo played only a total of eighteen minutes in the first two games against Switzerland and South Korea, when the performances of the French side were alarmingly bad. As Dhorasoo's World Cup got gradually spoiled - he admits on film to not really having that much interest in the team if he's not playing - the filmed project became one about alienation and the dejection of an adventure gone awry.
Poulet and Dhorasoo shoot on Super-8 and communicate mainly by phone, with the only sound recording emanating from Poulet's side, which records the games from the stands and the streets of Germany. The Super-8 lends a pleasing retro air, simultaneously mystifying and banalising a sport that enjoys such a huge, yet highly selective media coverage. There is however much of the clichéd confessional and mirror shots familiar from countless video diaries, though one can forgive Dhorasoo a bit of conceptual awkwardness given that he was not there primarily to film after all. The film's biggest disappointment is that it focusses a little too much on Dhorasoo himself. The man is an interesting character and he comes across as a highly amiable and witty sort, though I would have liked to have seen a little more of the rest of the team, for example to spy on the tensions between Zidane and Thierry Henry. That would have been a real fly-on-the-wall documentary though it is hard to imagine that any of the players would have consented to that, even had Dhorasoo the time to film them 24/7.
So we are left with one shot of Lilian Thuram signing autographs at Munich airport, being told to smile by a much more relaxed Dhorasoo. The final ten minutes of the film have the best moments, such as a brief glimpse of the defeated French dressing room and an even briefer cheeky glance into the Italian one. And then when Dhorasoo arrives back to his Parisian flat after the trip, he has to make three trips up two flights of stairs to haul his luggage up, before sitting down to deal with a month's worth of mail. It's a great scene that comes closest in the film to breaking down the mediatised barrier between public and professional footballer. Dhorasoo may yet branch further into film and this smart and curious autodidact would be a welcome addition to French cinema.