Mondovino (2004)

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Released 2-Feb-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 131:25 (Case: 138)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jonathan Nossiter
Studio
Distributor
Celluloid Dreams
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jonathan Nossiter
Albiera Antinori
Allegra Antinori
Lodovico Antinori
Piero Antinori
Isanette Bianchetti
Jean-Charles Boisset
Marchioness Bona
Michael Broadbent
Antonio Cabezas
Battista Columbu
Lina Columbu
Xavier de Eizaguirre
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This 2004 documentary could easily carry the by-line: "Americas War On Terroir"! For the subject of this film is the way in which big business America has taken over the wineries of France and Italy and homogenised their product. In so doing the terroir, that indefinable sense of place that elevates wines into the stratosphere of quality (and usually price), has been forever lost.

    Shot on a digital camcorder over the course of several years Mondovino is a series of intercut interviews with key players in the global wine industry. We are firstly introduced to the traditional winemakers in Italy and France creating classic vintages each year on small plots. This is savagely contrasted with the American experience of vast Disneyland like vineyards with their own tour guides! One is run by the all-powerful Moldavi Brothers who are amongst the largest wine producers in the world. Another is run by a dot.com success story.

    Director Jonathan Nossiter apparently has a degree as a sommelier and has a deep and abiding knowledge of wine and vineyards. His film takes us headfirst into a world of critics, consultants, exporters and vignerons with the viewer as the consumer. Although there are interviews with numerous personalities three are given greatest prominence.

    There is the wine consultant, Michel Rolland, who is on the payroll of countless wineries around the world. He helps them to create wines of quality and distinction. Or, is he creating wines which will suit the palate of Robert Parker, an American and the acknowledged leading wine critic in the world? Parker's reviews can make or break a winery in respect of international sales so, the film questions, is Rolland simply using his knowledge of Parker's specific tastes to make wines that Parker can love all the while keeping himself on the gravy train? Certainly, the film gives an unflattering portrait of Rolland. Surrounded by the beauty of the French wine growing regions he is the ultimate show pony, riding in the back of a Mercedes Benz, constantly on the car-phone as he goes from place to place just throwing in the same tip to all : "micro-oxygenate" (whatever that means!).

    Then there is Parker himself, a seemingly humble critic but fully aware of his power.

    Finally, there is Hubert de Montille, a traditional winemaker from the Burgundy region of France. It is he that comes closest to the thematic heart of Mondovino. He is saddened by the globalization of French wines and yet wistfully accepting that it cannot be stopped. Every wrinkle and flaw on his aging face is a testament to his years of trying to create the best possible wine from the sacred earth. He is a man with whom one could sit and talk over a classic red.

    It is in its examination of characters that Mondovino works best. The film has no voice-over and relies upon the interviewees to drive the narrative. Film makers like Errol Morris are masterful at letting the interview subject develop and become the idea. However, Nossiter is no Morris and the biggest flaw of this documentary is that he tries to get his subjects to tell a story that is too complex to stand without some firmer hand on the flow of information. We know that Nossiter admires the classic winemakers, and we can sense his dislike for the new breed, but the focus of the film is so vague that it is difficult to appreciate whether we as viewers should rise against the barbarian invasion or simply drink up until we forget what the fuss was all about. By allowing the antagonists simply to state their individual cases, and without the benefit of an independent voice, it is difficult to even consider who is right and who is wrong in this debate. The film assumes the pre-eminence of the terroir of the classic French vineyards but doesn't really go deep into examining whether this is mostly smoke and mirrors from a wine industry trying to stave off competitors by any means necessary.

    It is also a fairly long documentary clocking in at almost 135 minutes. Mondovino was a great success in France upon its release and became one of only four documentaries nominated for the Palm D'or at the Cannes Film Festival . I am not sure whether local pride had anything to do with that but for anyone interested in the global wine industry or wine itself Mondovino is definitely worth a sip.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Mondovino was originally shot on digital camera and transferred to 35mm film for its cinema release. The DVD is presented in a 1.85:1 transfer which is described as its original aspect ratio. There seems no reason to question that assertion. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film betrays its source material with a persistent grain of varying quantities throughout. It may be due to the fact that the film was shot over a number of years but some parts, specifically those shot in America, seem to be a little worse in quality than the scenes filmed in France, Italy and England. At times the image is a little blurry and soft.

    That said, grain is the only real problem and there are no real issues with aliasing or defects in the video image or the transfer to and from film.

    Despite various marketing suggestions that this is a film to savour whilst drinking your favourite wine there is little actual drinking which goes on in the film and it makes no real attempt to glamorise the product. Therefore, the colours on offer are largely subdued and the camera is often out of focus (for those seriously interested Nossiter talks about the process of making the movie in an article in Filmmaker magazine including the explanation for the change in focus and the regular extreme close ups.) He also spends a lot of time focussing on animals, in particular dogs, for reasons that are never apparent.

    There are subtitles for the hearing impaired which are clear and easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
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Overall

Audio

    The sound for Mondovino is rendered in Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kb/s). This is perfectly adequate for this documentary.

    The sound quality varies according to the area where the interview took place and the level of background noise. A fair amount of the movie is in languages other than English and is subtitled.

    There do not appear to be any problems with lip sync.

    Surround channel usage and subwoofer support are not missed.

    Music, mainly in the form of popular songs, is used sparingly in the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    The main and sub-menus feature a screensaver like image of wine bottles raining down from a clear blue sky.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer for the film emphasizes the humour of the piece.

    It is a pity that there was no commentary for the Region 4 release as this may have aided the viewer's understanding of the various issues raised by the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 DVD has an audio commentary by director Jonathan Nossiter as well as over 50 minutes of additional footage. This would be the ideal version for anyone who is intrigued by the story and wants to get deeper into the subject. For anyone who is just interested in seeing the work the Region 4 is sufficient.

Summary

    Mondovino is a fascinating, if unfocussed, examination of the effect that globalization is having on the great vineyards of France and Italy. It contains many characters from the crusty vignerons to the slick exporters. Wine enthusiasts will find the movie indispensable although the casual viewer might find their head spinning as if from too many reds!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, June 23, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

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