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Film review: 'Mondovino' drags on for too long

Winemaking film does get into interesting ideas but digresses

Published: Friday, June 24 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

French vintner Aime Guibert ("Mas de Dau-mas-Gassac") in documentary "Mondovino."

Thinkfilm

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MONDOVINO — ** — Documentary feature on winemaking; in English, with subtitles for some foreign dialects; rated PG-13 (profanity, nude artwork, ethnic slurs, vulgarity).

It's clear that "Mondovino" filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter is intoxicated with the subject of his documentary: wine and winemaking.

At more than two hours, both Nossiter and the film go on too long, like a drunken party guest who doesn't know when to leave. Also, the bobbing, weaving and sometimes unfocused camera work suggests that either he or camera crew may have had a little too much to drink while shooting.

And that's a shame, because the film does get into some fairly interesting ideas, and there's definitely a renewed interest in wine in the United States — based at least in part on the popularity of last year's Oscar-nominated comedy "Sideways."

"Mondovino" attempts to explain the significance of winemaking through the words and experiences of generations of European and American wineries.

Two Frenchmen, Aime Guibert and Hubert de Montille, are trying to stave off competition from corporate wineries by favoring more old-fashioned methods of winemaking (though Guibert is not above using his connections to stop the competition from getting valued land).

The most fascinating section of the film delves into whether the close friendships between French wine consultant Michel Rolland, American wine critic Robert Parker and Opus One officials (a joint venture between some of the larger French wineries and Napa Valley's Mondavi family) might be accelerating the corporate winemaking trend.

But Nossiter moves on from there to look at some less compelling stuff, such as the de Montille family's various squabbles. And the film is filled with such pointless digressions. There are also shots of winemakers' pets (though one shot of a pooch gnawing on a huge block of cheese is curiously entrancing).

And for the most part, the film is devoid of humor, which is deadly, and makes the film seem even more odd when the smug Rolland is always seen or heard laughing at some joke.

"Mondovino" is rated PG-13 for occasional use of profanity (mostly religiously based), closeups of nude calendar photos, use of some ethnic slurs and racial epithets, and some vulgarity (animal flatulence). Running time: 135 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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