Fri, Dec 18, 2009
The month of May was a turbulent one full of moderate devastation for our football club. Not only did we experience a thoroughly disheartening Champions League final display, however we were forced into losing our most accomplished, talented player; perhaps the only player that has worn the coveted no.7 shirt since Le Roi’s departure that even comes close to replicating the Frenchman’s beauty and style.
My excitement towards the approaching month of June was therefore more than welcomed; not only in order to allow us to move on and recover from the previous season’s anti-climatic finale; however it also thoroughly enhanced my anticipation towards the cinematic event of my lifetime.
As a fan, one-time supporter and eternal admirer of the footballer/genius Eric Cantona, the concept of a film with the great man as its subject was always going to be an excruciatingly inspiring moment for me. So much so, that as much I have anticipated the release of Looking for Eric, I have desperately avoided finding out anything about the film so as to keep every moment of the ‘Pos’s Premier’ as fresh and appealing as possible. To top it off, it is directed by Ken Loach; the most authentic and socially real British filmmaker of his generation who’s films I generally like a great deal (although I’m still not 100% sure about Sweet Sixteen).
I gave-in to the trailer (I couldn’t help it!), but even still, my understanding of what the film was potentially about was shaped around what I wanted the film to be about: the concept of finding a hero, and what a hero! Eric (Bishop, that is) represents not only the lonely and depressed in society, however also anyone and everyone who has ever cherished a memory, especially those created by the genius of a footballer. The film, although not exactly about Cantona – and really only featuring him in half a dozen scenes (something definitely misleading from the trailer and overall hype) – features a number of his great moments in a United shirt; moments that Bishop regards as his fondest in an otherwise uncertain and misleading life.
We see his 85th minute volley against Liverpool in 1995’s cup final, his delicious chip-pass for Denis Irwin to score in 1992/93 (the moment Cantona regards as the greatest on the pitch), his finish against Wimbledon on the first day of the 1996/97 season (although that day will well and truly be remembered for the emergence of a skinny, floppy haired, 21 year old Englishman…) and of course, his ridiculous chip against Sunderland in the same season.
Le Roi’s final appearance in ‘his’ film (well, he did produce it) is utterly beautiful and, I’m not ashamed to say, drew a mesmerised tear from eye; similar to the one’s he used to conjure from me as a 10 year old who fell in awe of his “flawed genius” (to quote Bishop). I wont reveal it in detail so as not to spoil it, but I felt it represented not only his departure from Bishop’s life – content that he had achieved all he could to save Bishop from his rut and get his life back on track – however, also the way he left our lives (in footballing terms), by arrogantly turning up his collar on his 1997 replica shirt (the year he left United) as he bids farewell to Bishop; his loyal admirer.
Eric leaves Bishop as he had done enough to help recover his broken life. This could have easily been any of our lives he entered, helped, guided and departed from; and, in a way, this is pretty much exactly what he did for us at United. He made us happy, made us love and understand the game to its righteous degree; he scored for us and won for us, and his lasting impact will eternally be remembered through his guidance of a young, talented yet undoubtedly sporadic team who may not have succeeded had it not been for a leader. He did all he could to recover our team – a team that hadn’t won a league in 23 years – and help recreate a glorious winning side, until it was clear that the youth’s had learnt all they could from their guide. The same can be said for Bishop, who, like the fortunate ‘Fledglings’, had Old Trafford’s King to help him and lead him to a more meaningful, prosperous life.
The film, as I hoped, is truly beautiful: cinematically, but mainly thematically. Loach makes us laugh at the tender moments between and Eric and Eric (as well as the humorous closeness between friends and United fans alike); listen as closely to Cantona’s philosophical words as the desperate character he is guiding; and remember (as if we’d ever actually forget!) Eric’s legacy, status and impact on his fans. Obviously this film is going to attract football fans more so than non-fans, and even more obvious is its appeal and affiliation to the United fans who loved him. To me, Cantona is my Best, Law and Charlton; he is the extraordinary footballing genius of my generation whom I will always remember and regard as the greatest. Looking for Eric, if anything makes us recognise the importance of a heroic figure and how this game that I and millions of others, love so much, is empty without one.
Eric’s genius and status as a hero (to all who have flicked their collar) did not have to be emphasised through film, although it is perhaps the only respectful portrayal of such an artist; and for it to be created with such brilliance is undoubtedly a credit to the man. On that note, does the word ‘man’ really do him justice? Enter the hero himself with his own defining words: ‘I am not a man…I am Cantona’.
This was a guest article by Apostolos Lambrianides, author of the ‘When the Seagulls Follow the Trawler…’ blog, and also a featured blogger on TalentSpotter, by FourFourTwo magazine.A London born and bred red; he has been ‘following the trawler’ all the way to Old Trafford since he was 10, and from the first moment he saw ‘Le Roi’ flick his collar, he knew that’s where he belonged.