Sunday, August 28, 2005

Mondovino (2005)

The world of wine and the eternal push-pull tension between the Old World and the New World, between the family vineyards and the corporate vineyards, is a fascinating subject, but you wouldn't know it from watching this film. Somewhere between 1997's excellent Sunday and this film, director Jonathan Nossiter must have forgot everything he knew about putting together a well-made film, because this is one of the most blatant acts of directorial sabotage I've ever seen. Nossiter shoots with low-grade DV cameras, so the film looks butt-ugly, plus he opts for the seasick handheld approach (dude, seriously... buy a fucking tripod), and to top it off he throws in random, abrupt zooms into meaningless objects or people's eyeballs or family dogs every seventeen seconds or so. That's three strikes against the film already, and I haven't even gotten past the cinematography. The film runs 135 minutes, so you'd think with all that canvas, Nossiter would have time to develop a coherent thesis. No such luck, though -- in addition to being an eyesore, Mondovino is also a fatally scattered piece of work. Nossiter concentrates on the wrong aspects of the argument (I'm sympathetic to his anti-globalization slant, but by the end of this film you'd think the Mondavis were fucking Satanists or something) while ignoring potentially interesting tangents. For example, there's a brief shot of some French government official commenting on the wine-rating craze and how certain houses in Burgundy and Bordeaux are possibly using illegal methods to make their wine more in-line with the kind of wine that critics are perceived to like. Nossiter lets that slide with nary a whisper, but I would personally like to know more? What are these guys doing? Are they using Algerian grapes? Mega-Red? Ox blood? Red Dye #5? Poodle semen? What gives, dude? Stop wasting time on crap like the Ornellaia Affair (repetitive, makes points already made several times during the film) or the Harlan Family Winery (pointless, is probably in the film just to prove that you've been to Harlan) or Robert Parker (somehow, both fawning and a poorly-researched attempt at character assassination), put down the glass from which you've undoubtedly "tasted" far too much and fucking focus on what you want to say, jackass. To put it another way, this film has a nose of burnt sulfur, the color is off and there's very little body. The flavors are rather unpleasant, as initial pungent notes of tar and tobacco give way to a sour, vinegary aftertaste. Out of 100, I give it a 34. I can't bloody imagine how boring this film would come off to someone who, unlike me, couldn't give two shits about wine.

Grade: C-


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