Mondovino is a 2004 documentary film about the wine industry and the incredible egos that are apparently required to make critically acclaimed wines. It also explores some slightly interesting side points suggesting the world has lost the art of appreciating fine wines, due to Mondavi-driven American style winemaking focused on the flavor imparted by new wood wine cask rather than the individual 'terroir', or region-specific quality, that gives each wine its personality.
Many of the critics who raved on this seemed to enjoy the exploration into topics like America's ongoing effort to protect globalization, corporatization and deforestation from the evil forces of communism and community activism. I normally find discussion of these topics somewhat interesting but this Blair-Witch-Project and Grapes-of-Wrath hybrid never actually makes any points. This takes some of the drama out of the debate. To make up for that lacking feature, you are provided by several long, loving camera shots of the sky directly above the heads of the people interviewed.
Like most critically acclaimed movies...I was bored nearly unto death by Mondovino. Like many artsy flicks there were almost no fine women, no car chases, no action and no real resolution at the end. In my opinion, that is far too much like life to make a good movie. On the bright side, I found the soundtrack fairly entertaining. I watched this insomnia cure because my folks own an Oklahoma winery. I thought there might be some valuable winemaking info for them in the movie. If you are looking for winemaking information on the order of 'you must be a poet to make a great wine', then this is the movie for you.
There is an examination of several of the world's most wealthy wine families. As I listened to their elitist’s views, that often sounded like neo-nazi propaganda, I kept getting this creepy feeling like I was at a Dog Show or something. It is spooky being around a huge crowd of people trying to stamp out variation in favor of a view of ideal purity that conveniently fills their pockets at that same time that it demonstrates how civilized they are compared to their competitors. When I saw the movie Best in Show, I got the same feeling but at least they made a joke of it.
Mondovino is cheaply made, another thing that the critics seem to love. I personally find motion sickness inducing, handheld camera shots and the use of three different languages more annoying than creative. Thankfully, they have included subtitles for the long sections of French and Italian in this movie, but closed-captions for the hearing impaired was apparently 'a bridge too far'.
The Academy Award-winning wine movie Sideways came out the same year. It is widely regarded as the best wine movie of all time because it made the producers of Pinot Noir based wines a really fantastic amount of money.
Although more entertaining than Mondovino, there is still plenty to dislike about Sideways. I have to warn you that there is a very gratuitous full male nude scene in Sideways that is certain to surprise and offend many folks. However, if you can stomach that, you do get to see Sandra Oh deliver a well-deserved beating to a jerk and a few other very funny scenes. During the movie one main character teaches the other the basics of wine tasting as well as introductory snobbery and the value of wine in the aid of enduring long periods of forced celibacy.
Strangely, the main character in the movie spends a lot of time disparaging wines made with the Merlot grape. Since this is without a doubt my favorite wine grape, I could not help but be shocked and appalled to hear such an unpalatable character ripping on such an oh-so palatable wine.
Both movies are available via DVD now, as they floated to the top of my Blockbuster Online Queue. If you have seen a wine movie that doesn’t suck, leave me a comment on my blog.
Technorati Tags: Wine Movies, Movie Reviews, Sideways, Mondovino
Labels: Wine Industry