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on 4 August 2016
Oh, I remember when my favourite Italian wine fizzed naturally, long gone are those days... I have picked tons of grapes, there is nothing like vines, particularly the old ones, gnarled and loved.
There is more to this documentary than wine, there are stories of people, a time that meets a time when the dream of the new vineyard owner is to have vines on Mars and that really foxed me, it was central to the story, my question is 'why?'. We had been offered a glimpse of exquisite vineyards of the Mediterranean and the fabulous plantations of California, why would anyone be interested in planting vines on Mars? That one comment, from a dominant force in wine production encapsulated modern vision, people can't see wood for trees, can't taste good wine for the vanilla of new wooden barrels and who cares anyway, because most wine will be served with vinegar on the table so it may as well be totally synthetic.
It's a very humorous film, I laughed out loud several times and the story reached to other world issues, subtly, lightly, nothing heavy, but there is a thread of deep commentary covering all manner of historic issues.
I shall buy the film, it's a great language lesson too, for anyone interested in the beauty of spoken French, Italian and Spanish. Excellent.
The dogs are beautiful, not everyone has them (it seems) but those who do, it's good to see how central to their lives the dogs are and a telling inclusion by the very witty film maker.
I highly recommend this movie, for anyone interested in wine, the land, people, history and the paradox of 'progress'.
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on 27 February 2006
Mondovino is a very interesting film, whether you want to call it a documentary or an opinion piece. That someone has been making 2 hour+ feature film about wine (or rather some aspects of the wine industry of today), consisting mostly of hand-held camera interviews of various wine personalities, with no narration, is fascinating in itself. Some has likened Nossiter’s take on wine to the works of Michael Moore, but I think this is an overstatement. I don’t think those who agree with Nossiter will be as entertained by this film as Michael Moore’s fans were by Fahrenheit 9/11, nor do I think those who disagree will be as enraged. Don’t misunderstand me: Modovino definitely has an anti-globalisation and to some extent anti-American streak to it, it does set out to portray many of its characters in a disrespectful way by making them look pompous and ridiculous, and it does have some humorous elements to it. But it is not totally black-and-white or over-the-top when it comes to pushing the view that Nossiter seems to want to get across.
I had some difficulty in deciding on a rating for Mondovino. It probably deserves ***** for ingenuity and provocativeness, **** for effort and timeliness, but * or ** for fact-checking or balanced coverage of the reasons why winemakers and the wine industry in parts of Europe are in trouble. All in all, I settled for ***.
Perhaps the best way of describing the film is to group the characters along a good to bad scale, the way I read the story:
The very good guys
Wine growers in Europe (especially if they’re old and somewhat eccentric, at least if they seem not very wealthy), poor farm workers all over the world
The somewhat good guys
The now-active sons and daughers of the above growers, older growers who seem a bit richer (but have not incorporated or made joint-ventures with Americans), European wine writers
The somewhat bad guys
Bordeaux negociants (“whole-sale dealers in wine”, sort of), American wine writers, winemakers working as employees for corporations
The very bad guys
Americans in the wine industry, especially the Mondavis, most wine aristocrats, wine corporations (whether American, French or Italian), anyone who hires minimum-wage farm hands, wine consultants (especially Michel Rolland)
The places
The Pyrenées, Bordeaux, Languedoc and Burgundy in France, Sardinia, Florence and Tuscany in Italy, Napa Valley (California) and New York in USA, Brazil and Argentina
Condensed version of the plot
Wine everywhere is made in the same style by big corporations, with no respect for local history, traditions or opinions, due to the influence of wine consultants and wine critics. A Mondavi project in Aniane in the region of Languedoc in France, failed due to local resistance and the subsequent election of a communist mayor. Some forefathers of present-day wine aristocrats and negociants were sympathetic to Italian fascism 70-80 years ago or traded with German WWII occupiers of France some 65 years ago. American millionaires like to build chateaus in Napa valley, be wine makers and want to seem good liberals by caring about their farm hands, but could very well be ego-inflated nouveau riche hypocrites. And dogs, dogs, everywhere dogs!
I think there are several problems with this story as seen from “the sidelines”, and by that I mean by someone such as myself, who enjoys wine a lot, but does not live in a wine-producing European country. Should innovative Australian and New Zealand winemakers not be allowed to sell their wine to the rest of the world? Shouldn’t I have the choice between an Australian Shiraz and a Rhône wine, between a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre? In that case – WHY NOT? In most other industries, being production-oriented rather than consumer-oriented went out of fashion decades ago. The companies that didn’t adapt no longer exist. The same thing has been happening to the wine industry for quite some time. That’s the REAL untold story behind the story in Mondovino... And I would claim that we, the wine consumers, are the winners! Quality is better than ever, and while some homogenization of styles have taken place at the low-price end, the selection of wines and styles actually available to a consumer somewhere in the world is a lot wider today than, say, 20 or 30 years ago.
Of course, wines, vines and winemaking are intertwined with history and culture, and many wine-producing areas are quite postcard pretty, but do we really want to adopt the view that making wine is an entitlement, as long as the region is old enough? Shouldn’t the quality of the wine, the production costs, the asking price, and the preference of wine-drinkers enter into the calculation at all? Am I supposed to be forced to buy wine I do not like, or don’t consider very interesting, or don’t think is worth its price tag? Or is, once again, the tax-payer supposed to pick up the bill?
Not too long ago, most wine was produced as a cheap, low quality and fairly undifferented bulk product to be consumed locally and regionally. Post-WW II technological advances was used to increase the yield, to make even more simple wine from each vineyard. In most places, this worked fine up until the 1970’s, and in some places up to the 1980’s. What has happened since then is that the local/regional consumption has dropped considerably, while new generations of consumers are more demanding when it comes to quality, and picky as well as trend-influenced when it comes to which styles of wine they like.
I suppose it would make a dull story to tell this, but it is much closer to the truth than what you learn in Mondovino. But, by all means, watch Mondovino! It’s interesting and provocative. But do check the facts for yourself!
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on 19 November 2012
It is difficult to know why this film has done so well when it is so badly made. The subject is fascinating, but the hand-held camera shakes and swings around, there are sudden close-up zooms to a face with equally sudden zoom out, for no apparent reason, and very little has been shot with the help of a tripod. There is no commentary, which might have helped a bit. I got the impression that no editing had taken place, because there was so much in this film which should have ended up on the cutting room floor. Views of clouds, dogs, and extraneous shots of nothing much at all, add nothing of value. I was torn between giving this one star or two, purely because the subject interests me. The credits for Direction, Photography and Editing all go to Jonathan Nossiter. With a proper film maker, this could have been really good.
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on 25 July 2005
Mondovino is a documentary on ` state of the art ' of the world-wide production of quality wines, putting in confrontation those who defend that the wines must be produced to the local scale, to keep uninjured the characteristics (what they call "the terroir") that give them quality and distinction, and those that think that wine can be produced at a global scale, not losing quality by this, in fact even adding some quality. In a more immediate reading, the film inquires on the effects of globalization in the wine industry, putting in evidence what is the conjuncture of this industry, which are the main actores, the main trends, the economic movements. Eventually, this would be enough to make an interesting movie.
But Mondovino is more, much more than this. Made in an almost artisan way by Jonathan Nossiter, who leads the interviews keeping the camera on his shoulder, the film first surprises us by the attention that it dedicates to exterior details: the airplanes and helicopters, and over all the dogs: in each scene there is always (at last, almost always) a dog (or more than one) that, at some point, seems to concentrate all the attentions, specially the one from the camera that abandons the subject of the interview to curiosly follow the evolutions of the dogs. These elements are essential to the tone of the documentary, because they give comicity to it, but over all a certain air of nonsense.
Nossiter's position facing his subjects is never cynical or sarcastic. He is always interested and serious. Of course there is a lot of irony, but is the one that results not of a position of the producer, its personal opinion concerning the events or the personages, but irony that comes from the substance of the movie. Paying so much attention to his interviewées, Nossiter give the worse that they could get: he undresses them, putting at nake all their interests and compromises.
And it is doing this tha the film grows and exceeds itself, being no longer a documentary on the world of the wine, to be a sudden and impious, but still tender, vision on the greatnesses and the miseries of the human condition. On our will to enclosure the essence of nature on a simple bottle of wine. But also on our small (and grate) vanities, on the treasons we are ready to comit to defend our egotistical interests, being them money, power or simply fame.
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on 25 September 2014
This is one of the funniest exposes of gourmet pretensions in this case the quality wine industry. It is also paradoxically an argument against mass produced wine and the destruction of "terroir", the European tradition of classic wine making in vineyards that have been worked by the same family vintners for generation. Big versus small. Pretension versus knowledge. Class versus greed. It is also in parts extremely funny.
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on 13 June 2016
Interesting interviews, but there's also a Michael Moore-style, manipulative element to this documentary. For example, for some reason, only the Michel Rolland-linked winemakers seem to have been asked to testify about their ancestor's connection with Mussolini or the German occupation.
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on 10 September 2013
Excellent, eccentric fly on the wall doco, that gave me a good laugh. With an understated seriousness on the wine industry. First 20-30 min a bit boring, but then it gets interesting. Will have to watch it again.
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on 5 June 2016
Only for nerds - wein nerds and all that would like to know about what is going on in the buisnes
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on 24 November 2007
As a wine enthusiast and someone inside the industry, I was engrossed in this long film. At times the camera style would drive me crazy (he loves dogs) but the old vs. new is captivating stuff. It was worth watching the bonus material, even though it is mostly a lot more of the same. I see both sides of the storey in my work, but personally tend to believe we are working our way towards a monolithic wine world. Parker/Spectator have done some wonderful things...at a price and I think this film does a great job demonstrating that. PS. I didn't sense it was "anti American", maybe anti big business, but no offense taken here.
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on 14 November 2016
loved the movie
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