Monday, May 23, 2005

Mondovino – The Dogs of Wine?
Miranda and I made our way to the Ken Cinema for the 5:30pm showing of Mondovino last Friday evening. I believe it was the first showing in San Diego but the crowd was small, maybe less than 30 souls. Without any real audience participation you have to form your own opinion of this movie, and even though my impression is clouded by the recent internet discussions one thing is painfully clear. The production is well below acceptable standards. Camera shake, poor focus and zooming techniques abound. And the subtitles can be frustratingly difficult to read.

But what about the movie? Is Nossiter the anti-Parker, the anti-Mondavi, the anti-Rolland, the anti-Globalist that he has been made out to be? Well in truth his opinion is never verbally presented in the movie. The way the movie is put together, the editing, the questioning, may reflect Nossiter’s opinion; indeed some have argued just that. But I found any unified argument poorly formed and presented.

The movie seems to be a series of badly stitched together segments involving battles for land between Mondavi and the French and later the Italians, intermixed with visits to South American peasant farmers. Are the latter to be the target of global wine market sharks like the Mondavis? Almost certainly, but that point it not made clear at all. In other segments families struggle to keep tradition alive, while Michel Rolland seems to want to micro-oxygenate everything in sight while making sure his clients don’t understand what he is doing; otherwise they could do it themselves. Robert Parker is there, stating yet again that all he wants to do is keep below the radar. He can sit at his desk in Monkton, MD and influence wine tastes in Tokyo, and he wants to keep below the radar! Parker’s statements I find troubling. He is an intelligent man and he knows his sphere of influence, and yet he seems to want to convince people that he is ignorant of that influence.

The most annoying and yet amusing aspect of the film is the constant panning of the camera to any dog that may be nearby even though an interview is taking place. Fortunately the dogs provide some of the more lighthearted moments in the movie without the need to strain to read subtitles.

What is also noticeable in the movie is wine nationalism and elitism. Most extreme is the French vigneron who does not want the Mondavi machine coming in and buying land but welcomes Gérard Depardieu and the conglomerate behind him. Not without fault are the Napa winemakers who place such high value on their Mexican workers that they reward them with T-shirts and other gifts, and even know their names; but don’t know if there are Mexican vineyard owners in the valley and don’t even seem to want to save their embarrassment by noting the growing wine industry that is just south of the Californian border.

After the movie we went for dinner at a Mexican restaurant across the street from the theatre and we were given a copy of FILM Magazine. Inside I found Nossiter’s explanation of his film. "And what’s happening is there’s a wine war going on right now across the globe, a war for wine’s survival. It’s a cultural, political and economic war. A war between countries, but also between and even within families. There are winemakers from the old world and the new fighting to preserve their individual personality, dignity and history (whether ancestral or recently discovered). There are also equally committed and outlandish characters, at home and abroad, looking to impose a dominant, homogenising style, and wipe out our historical memory and cultural diversity."

Well at least now I know what I was supposed to see!

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