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03.14.2005

Mondovino: The Other Wine Movie

In an effort to stop all of this endless post-marketing about the movie Sideways and its effects on the wine business, I propose we all start immediately arguing about the next wine movie to hit the theaters: Mondovino.

I had a chance to see this documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter a couple of weeks ago in an intimate setting with several of the subjects in the movie present, along with the filmmaker. I guess it was sort of the Bay Area premiere of the film, which I believe is getting a wider theatrical release in the coming months.

I thought it was a great, thought provoking, very interesting, and a highly irresponsible piece of filmmaking.

Now, you'll have to bear with me a bit, it's rare that my love of wine and my formal training as a documentary filmmaker and photographer get to intersect, so I may get a bit, well, detailed on you, but trust me. The issues with this film are subtle yet insidious, and it takes a little explaining, along with an understanding of how movies like this get made to understand why I can brazenly call Nossiter irresponsible, reductionist, and in some cases, just plain rude.

Briefly, the film is a documentary about the globalization of the wine trade; the old small farm ways of winemaking and the new large corporate ways of winemaking; the historic styles of old wines and the new styles of wine that some say are influenced by Robert M. Parker, Jr. and consultants like Michel Rolland; and all of the conflicts, strong feelings, and money wrapped up in the collision of these ideas and traditions in modern times, all over the world.

Got the picture? OK. So what Nossiter did (thanks to his ability to speak 6 languages) is go around the globe to major wine regions and their countries, talking to important and influential as well as ordinary people about all the stuff I mentioned above. His cast of characters included the aforementioned Mssrs. Parker and Rolland, as well as the Mondavi Brothers, the Staglin Family, the Antinori brothers, New York wine importer Neal Rosenthal, Languedoc winemaker Aime Guibert of Daumas Gassac, Michael Broadbent, and more.

Many of these people say wonderful, insightful, and very moving (and scary) things about wine all throughout the movie, which is great. What is not great is the way that Nossiter has clearly made a decision to undermine certain people in the film while romanticizing others. If this were at random it might be passed over as possibly accidental, but unfortunately those people which he chooses to undermine are all representatives of the wealthy or corporate elite of the wine world (and one side of his filmic argument) while those who he glorifies are invariably the small, old world family winemakers that represent the other.

How does he do this? Using various techniques both during shooting as well as in post production.

One that is particularly devastating is his tendency to be interviewing someone on camera and while that person is talking, making the camera wander off of the subject and start (literally and figuratively) focusing on something else. Now sometimes documentary filmmakers do this because it helps them make edits to someone's monologue, for the same reason that they often shoot details of someone's hands as they are talking, etc. (these are later edited into a film as "cutaways" that mask the fact that a section of the interview has been removed). However, there are many occasions where Nossiter's camera deliberately wanders off of the person talking for long periods of time and he forces you (as a viewer) to look at something else while you continue to hear the interviewee speaking. When a filmmaker does this, he is, in effect saying "Well, I know this person is talking to you now, but here's something more important to look at that I think has meaning in relation to who this person is or what they are telling you."

At best this is rude, like someone who can't have a serious conversation with you without fidgeting and staring off into space rather than meeting your eye. At worst it is a nasty way of making an unstated point about your subject, as when a rich wine estate owner is talking to the camera, but Nossiter starts filming an old man arthritically climbing a ladder to clean the man's gutters instead, or when a well-to-do winery owner is talking to the camera about the work that has gone into his winery and Nossiter starts filming the automatic pool cleaning device. Compare these types of interviews and footage, usually paired or bookended with either pop, rock, or occasionally folk music, to interviews with the aged old-world winemakers which show very little of the wandering camera syndrome and are usually paired with classical and older styles of music that conjure a nostalgic and romantic mood, and it's hard to argue that Nossiter is treating his subjects with an equal amount of respect.

That word respect is important because it's not objectivity. I'm sure Nossiter and many other documentary filmmakers would never make any claim to objectivity, per se, but all of the good ones would say that you have to treat your subjects with respect. Nossiter, in my opinion, certainly does not, and what's worse, he seems to apply his disrespect to the folks who don't share his point of view.

Another example of this is an interview he films at a certain point in a Napa vineyard with several people that I think are the PR people for Mondavi (I may be mis-remembering which Winery, but these are the folks who represent an example of "corporate wine"). At a certain point Nossiter starts interviewing one of the field workers who happens to be in the vineyard (in Spanish) about what it's like to work for the winery, etc. His choice of language is clearly about the comfort of his subject. Good marks for that. He then turns and starts talking (in English, I think) to the PR person, who seeing that the language has shifted to Spanish starts trying to answer in Spanish. This is obviously that person's choice to try to do this, but unfortunately his Spanish is not that good. So he ends up sounding like an insincere second grader. But the conversation has been building to this point around the relationship between the winery and the workers, and Nossiter has just spent several minutes getting the workers' side of the story. Rather than getting the winery's side of the story in response, he simply chooses to use this man's stumbling Spanish as an answer, which makes the winery look inept. He doesn't ask more questions or ask the person to answer in English, or if he does, he conspicuously leaves the answers out of the film.

As a final example, there's a whole grey area of dialogue and monologue elements included the film which I think are deliberate choices of the filmmaker to show people in a poor light. I say gray area, because as a filmmaker you are not expected to protect people from themselves -- people often say stupid, damning, or offensive things, and as a director it is not your responsibility to edit them out to make your subjects look better. For instance, when Nossiter is talking with an established Argentinean winemaking family, who happen to be expatriates, the man makes clearly racist comments when asked why there aren't more native Argentineans growing wine. You can't eliminate stuff like that, which is clearly that person's point of view in answer to your question.

On the other hand you have small bits of dialogue that you can choose to emphasize or eliminate at your will. At a certain point in the film Sharalyn Staglin makes a comment about how they do nice things for their migrant workers, like give them t-shirts and hats, etc. Unfortunately in the context of the narrative that Nossiter has been building at that point in the film, he uses that as the "final statement" on the subject for the moment, and as a result the Staglins come off seeming incredibly shallow and out of touch, not to mention exploitative. Nossiter ABSOLUTELY knows that this the effect of this line of dialogue, and by leaving it in the film he is in effect saying, yes, I want to convey that impression. The problem is that 1) this is not a nuanced, let alone true portrait of this family and 2) it shows a fundamental lack of respect for his subjects.

Likewise there's a very funny sequence in the film that is absolutely at the expense of the dignity of Michel Rolland, the famous French wine consultant, where Nossiter edits together several occasions where Rolland is dispensing advice to clients on the phone or in person, and all that you hear him saying over and over again is "Micro Oxidation." Nossiter is making a deliberate choice here and telling you the viewer that this is basically all that Rolland tells his clients to do. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of his advice and is again a choice which drives an underlying agenda, I believe, of portraying Rolland and the winery owners he works for as mechanistic, unartistic, capitalist creators of wines that are stylistically homogeneous.

Rolland is furious with Nossiter about his portrayal in the film, saying that he (Rolland) really is "a peasant, a man of the fields" and that the film completely mischaracterizes him. Nossiter certainly spent a lot of time with Rolland over several days, and unfortunately I don't think Rolland has much ground to stand on for most of his complaints, but in the end, I think he, like many of the people who graciously let Nossiter into their lives and gave him time, energy, thoughts and words, definitely have something to complain about.

Finally, I think the film misses a big opportunity to deal with some of the real complexities and subtleties of the issues surrounding the increasing globalization of the wine market. What the film reduces to two primary arguments (old world tradition vs. big business) is a much more complex dance. I've rambled on for too long here to tease out them all, but here's one example of a missed opportunity. For every winery owner who is using Rolland to improve his wines to get better scores and therefore make more money, there is a small winemaker somewhere just starting out on a dream of making wine for a living. The global marketplace makes both of these things possible. We must also remember that many of the large, global wine companies out there that we all love to hate started as the dreams of someone. What was Robert Mondavi, then, if not someone who had a dream about earning money while following his passion?

Let's fight for diversity, yes, let's consciously try to mitigate the enormous power that Parker has in the marketplace, let's support those old traditional winemakers who have been doing the same thing for hundreds of years. But let's not, please, turn the discussion into an argument that vilifies the new and glorifies the old.

Go see the movie. Then think about it. Then go buy a bottle of your favorite wine no matter whether it is made by a little guy or a big guy. Drink it. Remember what life is all about.

If you're interested in another, perhaps more learned take on the movie, here's the New York Times review (306k PDF) of it.

Comments (29)

HugeJ wrote:
03.15.05 at 9:28 AM

Nice review.

One thing that's interesting about this movie is that its guilty of the same pandering that it decries: The film is shot and edited in such a way as to create a desired reaction (much the way a large winery might manipulate fermentation and blending to get a specific taste profile). A true documentary would have "terroir" and be a true, unaltered, reflection of what is there, not what will generate the most $$......

/huge

Jack wrote:
03.15.05 at 9:38 AM

Thanks for letting me read the movie. (laughing) Not that I don't think I've already seen Sideways several times from just the postings in wine forums and wineblog entries.

You have to wonder how many more times film makers are going to be able to get away with making their subjects look idiotic, evil, etc., before they find themselves getting zero cooperation from everyone.

It's also amazing how a film maker like this has to twist things to suit his agenda instead of believing his audience is smart enough to draw their own conclusions. Has the standard devolved to Michael Moore and badly tasting Super-sized editing?

Great write-up of the movie, Alder! Really great!!!

-- Jack

P.S. Perhaps you'll have to seize the bull by the horns some day and make your own wine movie.

Alder wrote:
03.15.05 at 10:07 AM

Heh heh. Interesting analogy, Huge.

The only films I've ever seen that can be said to have true terroir are the incredibly boring mass observation films of 50's, which basically involved setting up a camera on a street corner and letting it run. The moment you start cutting the film (or putting the wine in a barrel) you are imposing some sort of artistic hand.

I don't however, think that Nossiter crafted his film to make the most money, but I do think that he crafted it to be controversial.

Alder wrote:
03.15.05 at 10:19 AM

Jack,

Yeah. That was a long windbag review. That's why it's good to have editors if you're a journalist. Your point about treating subjects badly is definitely on the mark. I'm sure many people would think twice before agreeing to be in Nossiter's next wine film, and some of his subjects this time around will definitely never speak to him again.

With regards to twisting things to suit his agenda, it's hard to know and to claim how much of that is really conscious and intentional and how much of it is unconscious. There are thousands of choices that a filmmaker chooses to make while shooting and in the editing room all of which affect the final "message" but it's unfair and unrealistic to say that they're all conscious and deliberate choices. However, the best filmmakers I know are capable of very critical evaluation and appraisal of the effects of their own work during post production (and filming) and are able to release films that are purged of most of their biases.

Roberto Rogness wrote:
03.15.05 at 11:52 AM

Alder, I thought the BEST part of the movie (which does commit all of the sins you list) was the two Haitian warehouse guys who work for Neal Rosenthal explaining terroir by noting that the mangoes on the side of the tree that gets less sun are different than the ones blasted all day. If they would have gone one step further and noted that it was like the difference between the over-ripe, California Styled 1997 and 2000 vintages in Piemonte vs the classic, structured 1998 and 2001 vintages where the acidity amplifies the flavors it would have been poifect to quote the Three Stooges.

As a merchant who is deeply involved in trying to keep guys like Paolo Bea, Emido Pepe, Paolo Balgera, Henri Billiot and even Tony Cotturi their place in the market, I really wanted this film to be great. Maybe the ten hour "director's cut" on DVD will be better?

Roberto

Alder wrote:
03.15.05 at 11:57 AM

I totally loved that bit. Thanks for reminding me. I was belly laughing at an embarassingly loud volume in the small theatre at that point.

It WAS really long wasn't it....?

Roberto wrote:
03.15.05 at 12:18 PM

Yeah, now every time I call Neal's office I ask for Antoine in the warehouse and the sales people go nuts laughing...

hb herr wrote:
03.15.05 at 1:31 PM

I guess I now have to go see the movie - and while I'm at it - sideways too - a double bill -

In the meantime - check out JUST GRAPES - http://www.coturriwinery.com/justgrapes.html - if you're lookng for the story of selling wine today -

Enjoy -

HBH

Alder wrote:
03.15.05 at 7:58 PM

Here's a good review of the movie from Slate's Michael Steinberger. View article.

Alder wrote:
03.16.05 at 11:20 AM

Here's another, more recent, New York Times review.

Ryan wrote:
03.16.05 at 1:02 PM

Alder, I read the more recent NY Times artictle this morning, and came to Vinography hoping for your take and other's comments. Lucky me, I got both.

Burried at the article's last graph was the comment from one of Nossiter's "good guys" saying that Americans attempting to impose their culture is at the core of what the filmmaker believes is wrong with the wine business. So should the anti-globalisation message be interpretted as an anti-American posturing? There's not exactly a shortage of that these days, but it seems like an oversimplification of the point Nossiter is attempting to make. I'm interested to hear what you think.

Alder wrote:
03.16.05 at 1:19 PM

Ryan,

While the anti-globalization element had a heavy dose of anti-americanism in it, it wasn't solely anti-american. There were other, non-American "corporate bad guys" in the film, like the Antinori Brothers from Italy, for instance. However, one of the biggest points that the film tried to drive home was the following:

Robert Parker is an American and has American tastes. Robert Parker has an undue influence on the wine world because of his scores -- everyone wants to make wines that Parker will like. Winemaking consultants and Michel Rolland in particular know Parker's palate, are friends with him, and push all of their clients to make wines to Parker's palate. Therefore the wine industry is swinging heavily towards Parker-ized wines.

There are several obvious holes in this argument, and several truths. Nossiter combined this line of reasoning with a general anti-corporate, anti-rich, anti-globalization point of view to create the villainous tide that he implies is sweeping the wine world.

1WineMcC wrote:
03.19.05 at 1:15 PM

In essence there is a lot wrong with MONDOVINO, but what is really right is that the film flummoxes wine media. California and New York media are guilty of missing the story of globalization of wine by the very winemakers who wear the mantle of fine wine.

MONDOVINO reveals the culture of the cover-up by the media of the incompatibility of farm and global wine products. To be fair, the global winemakers provide access at low cost, while farm winemakers provide the pleasures of farm foods at higher costs.

Globalization is expansion of brands across nations and continents. In food and wine it refers to the whole problem of making the product global, where the primary issue is scaling farms using processes. Every process used to scale a farm destroys the recognizable pleasures of farm food. The ecotypic expression in food—terroir—becomes lost in the processing. There is no doubt about this among food and wine people.

MONDOVINO introduces the European idea of the incompatibility of farm and global foods. It is in sync with the Italian Slow Food movement and organization (www.slowfood.com). Not surprisingly when the Italian Slow Food became Slow Food USA it morphed and was sublimated to our culture (see the current Gastronomica).

MONDOVINO normalizes the use of competitive marketing by winemakers. That is much needed, media have allowed global winemakers to wear the mantle of fine food and wine for too long.
The next generation of winemakers is going to go around the globalists by siding with MONDOVINO, Slow Food, and more.

Bertrand wrote:
03.21.05 at 10:57 AM

Good article, Alder . That was also my feeling , that the movie was strongly biased, with some antiamerican , anticapitalist agenda behind . Of course the documentary was loved over here ( as far as I could observe the reactions in the theater ), as french people these days seem to indulge in this simplistic black-and-white view of the world, in wich of course they think they're on the good side, and big money and americans are on the bad side . But, well , going beyond the obvious political views of Nossiter , I still enjoyed seeing many parts of the movie . I just hope next time some passionate wine lover wants to make a documentary, there will not be doors closing everywhere by fear of how the sequences and images will be turned around for an unexpected and controversial result .

Alder wrote:
03.21.05 at 11:29 AM

Leo?, or someone else from Enologix,

Thanks very much for taking the time to comment in such a detailed manner. I appreciate your participation in the dialogue here.

I'm afraid I can't find much to agree with in your comments below. Perhaps the one thing that I can say is that if you're implying that there's not enough press coverage surrounding the impact of the globalization of the wine world then that's a legitimate complaint, and one that I support.

However, to say there's a culture of "cover-up" is to cross the line into conspiracy theory. It may be your opinion that "farm" (by which I assume you mean small, artisan producers) and "global" (by which I assume you mean larger, corporate, even multinational companies) are incompatible, but I strongly disagree. I disagree both with the specific assertion that they are incompatible, as well as the way that your statement simplifies and polarizes the issue, in exactly the same way the movie did.

There aren't just two factions involved in this global world of wine. In between the Daumas Gassac winemakers and the Rothschild's there is a whole range of thousands of winemakers at various scales, all of whom are interacting with, against, or in the midst of the global marketplace. Some are struggling, some are becoming wildly successful, some continue to eke out a living, some choose not to participate, some choose to rail against the system, others choose to embrace it. There is a lot more complexity out there that cannot simply be described as "the incompatibility of farm and global wine products." The fact that the Robert Mondavi Corporation exists does not mean that a small farmer with 6 acres of grapes in Tuscany can't make a great wine, sell it, and make a living doing that. The fact that Robert Parker likes new-oak influenced, extracted wines doesn't mean that wines without those characteristics can't be successful, and it certainly doesn't mean that the small farmers of the world who make wines that don't match his palate are somehow in danger.

Your definition of globalization is simplified and dogmatic. Globalization also means the opening up of markets on a global basis both from a supply chain perspective (what raw materials are required to make things) and a value chain perspective (who goods are sold to and under what conditions and at what levels of demand). Brands are a component of this, yes. But you imply that to participate in this global marketplace, you must make your product global, which is totally false. Participating in the global marketplace simply means accessing different channels for the acquisition of materials and the sale of your goods. For a small winemaker it may mean simply finding a distributor like Kermit Lynch to bring your wine to America or elsewhere. Nothing more.

To DOMINATE or to become a big player in the global marketplace, sure, that requires scale and the processes which you say destroy the "small farm" quality of a product. I won't argue with that at all, but let's be clear: to try and compete with the Mondavi's of the world is a choice that someone has to make, not the entry criteria for someone to participate in the global marketplace.

In my opinion, the globalization of wine has done may more good than harm to the wine industry as a whole. As a proof point I posit that 20 years ago, it was virtually impossible for a person who did not already have a family farm with grapes already planted to decide they wanted to make a living as a winemaker or producer. Today, that is certainly not the case, and some of the most compelling wines are coming from people just like that, who have decided to follow their dream and make something that reflects their passion. This would not be possible if the global demand for wine, and in particular high quality, small production wine, was not increasing the way it is.

Finally, I have no idea what you mean when you say that the movie "normalizes the use of competitive marketing by winemakers." Are you implying that the purpose of the movie is to be a marketing vehicle for small winemakers? That's news to me, and I think it does a particularly bad job of it, if that's the case.

Alder wrote:
03.21.05 at 11:46 AM

Bertrand,

I fear very much that those doors WILL be closed. I too enjoyed many parts of the movie despite its flaws.

Geoff Smith wrote:
03.21.05 at 1:18 PM

Does anyone know when Mondovino will be available on DVD in the US?

Alder wrote:
03.21.05 at 7:29 PM

"Not me," said the little red hen. Considering it's just hitting the SF theatres next month I'd guess it will be several months yet...

1WineMcC wrote:
03.26.05 at 7:44 AM

Competitive Marketing: As a wine industry management consultant I am seeing MONDOVINO causing marketers to call their winemakers to discuss NOT talking about things their companies do which was portrayed in the film-this is what we call the culture of the cover up. It is not a conspiracy per se but the sophisticated marketing functions at global companies. In essence, the marketing functions have to ask their winemakers to cover-up the "Micro-ox" and put on the mantle of fine wine to make their products global. The key to large company wine marketing is wearing the mantle of fine food and wine, even if its not true.

In the hands of an experienced California wine marketer MONDOVINO is one of two things; either it is a warning shot across the bow of large companies to cover up specific winemaking in the film or an inspiration to farmers to market that what separates small scale wines is the benign winemaking.

Global companies have spoken with us specifically wanting me and my company to avoid being in any story about thier winemaking operations; while the small companies are wondering if there is an opening for them in "outing" the larger neighbor companies for using the "global winemaking operations such as 'Micro-ox'". My response to the global companies is to avoid covering up their winemaking, or that it the story, a sort of Watergate for a company. My response to the small farmers is yes, "tell the world, go around the global system of winemaking by being honest about winemaking methods with the national media."

MONDOVINO's biggest affect on winemakers is legitimizing the discussion of farm (small) versus global (large) winemaking methods in winemaking communities, e.g. Napa, Sonoma valleys) where the ethos is live naturally and let live. The challenge for winemakers is that many of their brethren were once small, have become large and been sold to global companines, but remain above all neighbors. If a younger generation of winemakers will have to figure out how to go around the system they will have to say the larger winemakers are NOT the smaller winemakers. I would rather see some leadership from the large winemakers in the form of leading an honest discussion of the fact that globalization offers consumers quite alot, albeit while it does not offer terroir.

Here's to the discussion of farm versus global wines, and the pleasures of small wine farms.

T. D. Hughes wrote:
03.27.05 at 6:01 PM

It's been interesting to read the comments regarding the anti-Americanism (alleged) of Nossiter and his subjects. Also, I have been intrigued by the paucity of comments regarding Nossiter's success in crafting a narrative, "biased" or otherwise; documentary or not, there should be a solid story line to enliven a thesis and sustain our attention for over two hours.

It seems to me that the anti-American note in the movie is assumed--oh God, we're dealing with FRENCHMEN here! They're still pissed over Freedom Fries! Why are we so quick to leap, whiningly, to that interpretation of everything, especially when some of the "bad" guys in this film really are Americans, who on camera do nothing to cover themselves with glory? I think of the Mondavis here, who seem no less calculating and repulsive than the Frescobaldis and the Antinoris.

Nossiter's unsubtle linkage of Big Wine to fascism is what is really problematic to me, although the 3 of us who saw the movie at Film Forum in the Village yesterday are inveterate lefties. It was a bold linkage, spanning 3 continents and fascism with and without the capital letter. Even I, a working-class, gay-marriage-supporting homosexual from Massachusetts, was taken aback by that. Perhaps Nossiter has performed a service for us. I'm still processing it. But to brand that with the accusation of anti-Americansim is self-centered and myopic.

As to the narrative, Nossiter created vivid characters through his editing and interviews, which plenty of documentary filmmakers have done (remember Nanook?). The narrative is undercut by his recursiveness--too many repetitions meant to be an illuminating or humorous leitmotif quickly become tedious, notably the constant shots of dogs. (I bet that played well with the French, who seem not to mind dogs in restaurants and so on. Oh, maybe it's just me: One of the lefties I was with went ahhh every time she saw one of the damned mutts.) Michel Rolland returns on cue to personify Globalization, and it seems to me the man--who seems to be only a semi-phoney--takes too many hits, particularly compared with Parker, who emerges from the movie less battered than Rolland.

(For the record: I usually don't drink California or Australian wines--the oak, the fruit-bomby thing, etc. Kiwi pinots and sauvy blancs, greco di tufo, Rueda, Cahors, Washington state--good value, generally a little oak or not oaked at all. And at good price points.)

Sorry. I digress. I think that Nossiter undercuts himself badly in spreading his narrative over too many characters and sources of commentary, eg, Neal Rosenthal, engaging and persuasive as he and his warehousemen were. I guess is that Nossiter couldn't bring himself to edit as ruthlessly as he needed to, to reduce the thing from a 10-hour TV series to 137 too-long minutes.

Still, there were a couple of moments that stood out as wonderful documentary revelations: when Antinori (?) rudely left his wife at Nossiter's mercy; when Alix de Montville's anger at her employers boiled over; when the Staglins were talking about the people in the Eastern Bloc wanting the life that (some) Americans had ("me too!" I cried). These moments just required Nossiter to hold the damned camera steady and let the moment unfold...for a change.

Alder wrote:
03.28.05 at 11:11 AM

T.D.,

Thanks for your indsightful and detailed comments. Thanks for making that point about Nossiter's recursiveness, I think it's dead on. And the dogs got really annoying after a while. To me they were just signals of the filmmakers self indulgence at the expense of the audience. I'll bet there was at least 5 minutes of dog footage that could have been cut out (and given back to my life).

I also particularly liked the moment when Alix de Monteville "went off" on camera.

Interesting that you felt the Facism thread so strongly woven in there (apart from the obvious comments by one or two interviewees). It was not as strong or as omnipresent to me as the ideas of "colonialism" but I admit to knowing little about Fascism.

GBrown wrote:
04.09.05 at 12:13 AM

I take issue with your views on filmmaking. Should Marcel Ophuls have given Collaboration its due? And remember that the French banned The Sorrow and the Pity for many (many) years. And No, I am not equating Nossiter's subject with Ophuls' but you've been brainwashed I think about what effective filmmaking is. Ever since Fahrenheit--or more specifically the right-led attact on Moore--critics as well as moviegoers go around calling on films to be evenhanded, to give the other side, etc. Moore should have given Bush's side? Bush's side has the floor, for godsake. So do the Mondavis and Antinoris, it seems to me. You keep talking about rudeness. You say these Californians "graciously" let Nossiter into their lives. Give me a break. Why do you think they "let themselves" be filmed? And this is why I think Nossiter is really very brave. He wasn't the good guest. He has, horrors, a really strong point of view. From your stance you would also criticize Dickens for being too black and white. And I think Nossiter's success is that he creates characters. Yes, they are real people, and yes, we must trust that he spent enough time to feel that what he gives us represents some essential truth. There really is much more complexity on screen than you are giving it credit for. I feel I have to see the movie more times to sort out the details. And I really want to see the 10 or 14 hour version.

Alder wrote:
04.12.05 at 6:13 AM

GBrown,

Thanks very much for joining the fray. I appreciate your comments. Even though I agree we can't equate the subject matter of The Sorrow and The Pity to Mondovino in any way, I appreciate the comparison, because I think it furthers my point. From what I remember of my last viewing (in college) that movie is a phenomenal example of a documentary filmmaker who treated most of his interview subjects with respect, despite having a specific point of view. And in doing so, he made his film much more powerful, because viewers were forced to ask themselves what they would have done in the same situation. He humanized everyone. Please don't confuse my desire for this sort of respect in a film with evenhandedness. What would filmmaking be without a point of view? Nossiter has no obligation to be evenhanded, and he really doesn't have the obligation to be respectful of his subjects either, he, like every artist has the right to put whatever polemic on film he feels like -- but had he shown a bit more respect for his subjects, and delved a little deeper, he would have made a better movie that more deftly handled the complexities of the issues he was trying to deal with.

I think you are in no position to judge why people "let themselves be filmed." I don't know how many documentary films you have made, but in my experience MOST people have no desire to be on camera for a documentary film, even when you might consider that it presents them with an opportunity to market themselves or their business. And I still maintain that Nossiter had an obligation not to insult these people, even if he disagreed with their lifestyle, or the position they represented in the world of global wine. I'm not sure why you bring up Dickens in this context -- he was writing fiction, and we come to fiction with a drastically different set of expectations than we do a documentary film.

Perhaps you are right to say there is more complexity there than I am giving it credit for, but I can't shake the nasty taste left in my mouth, and my disappointment at what I think could have been a much better film.

Alder wrote:
04.12.05 at 6:17 AM

Nossiter responds to his critics on Robert Parket's bulletin board.

Is it me or does he seem like he's backed himself into a corner and is taking swipes at everyone that approaches? Perhaps it's just that I'm not used to seeing Directors willing and able to criticize the critics publicly.

scott wrote:
09.09.05 at 12:18 PM

I think you miss the point of the film in your review. The technique he used when he focuses on people in the background is not to be rude towards the person he's interviewing but to highlight the men and women who do the work to produce the wine.

Alder wrote:
09.09.05 at 12:37 PM

Scott,

You haven't provided an e-mail address so unfortunately I can't respond to you directly, but your logic is flawed. If Nossiter really wanted to highlight the people doing the work, why didn't he interview them? The maid at Ornellaia, the old man cleaning gutters at Antinori, etc.

Frankly I don't think Nossiter in using his "technique" thought he was being rude, but he most certainly was, and in his responses to criticism about the film he clearly has shown that he doesn't have an awareness at all of the ideological and emotional imbalance of the film.

Anonymous wrote:
09.17.05 at 5:44 PM

I walk in to the video store one day and see this DVD Mondovino. It grabs my attention so I rent it.

Wow!

So much of what is going on in the film I relate to.

Im Cuban my family where tobacco growers in Cuba. Today along with my family I own a cigar company Padilla cigars based in Miami wich produces premium cigars made in Nicaragua, Dominica Republic and a limited amount in Miami's Little Havana.

My cigars have received some of the highest ratings in Cigar Aficionado Magazine wich also publishes Wine Spectator. From time to time cigars and wine as an industry cross paths so it was interesting to look at some of the wine world and see some of the same things happening there as well.

I must say the film does what I think a good documentary should--it makes you question things and maybe seek your own answers.

It was made in a style that worked well with a subject like wine. If you enjoy wine our are interested in the subject, take a look you will enjoy it.

Regards,
Ernesto Padilla
Padilla cigars
Miami Florida

Hasan OZER wrote:
12.05.05 at 9:00 AM

Hi,

How can I found the full version (10 or 14 hour) of mondovino film? Could you help me?

Rehards.
Hasan OZER

Alder wrote:
12.05.05 at 9:06 AM

Hasan,

I do not know. I'm sorry.

Good luck.

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