Friday, March 04, 2005


The documentary is as they say a bit rambling but good in terms of bringing out the personalitites involved in the wine trade. It focuses on the business aspect and concepts of cultural identity. At 137 minutes it does seem a bit much, but I can sympathize with the director's objective of presenting a fuller picture of the industry. Apparently it was edited down from 500 minutes of footage and marginally shorter than the 3 hour cut that was shown at Cannes. It is all shot in DV so you needn't worry too much about seeing it on a smaller screen. I do think it will work better in televised form. A projected series for the BBC is in the works-- in smaller segments, the subject will be more digestible.

The post-film discussion with Jonathan Nossiter (the director), a professor of French, and Niall Ferguson, was exceptionally lively due to Mr. Ferguson's presence. Ostensibly he was on the panel due to his books on the history of the House of Rothschild. He primarily attempts to 'follow the money' and leave politics to the wayside-- but is it not impossible to seperate the two? Needless to say, Mr. Nossiter and Mr. Ferguson's agendas and viewpoints could not be further from each other. Mr. Nossiter was visibly irritated by Mr. Ferguson's presence as he failed to see the novelty of Mr. Nossiter's film. As far as Mr. Ferguson was concerned, this documentary presented 'business as usual' in the wine industry. He was not exactly denying the effect of globalization but rather explaining that there are historical parallels to it that should not be overlooked. Mr. Ferguson's contrarian tactics while on the one hand provided some balance to the evening's proceedings they also deeply infuriated the director, who claimed that after touring with this film in 15 countries, this has been the only place where he was verbally taken to task. I do think it is naieve for Mr. Nossiter to claim that his documentary doesn't present an argument, it shows how the wine industry has changed rapidly in the past 20 years primarily due to marketing-- and who is responsible for this. This film will encourage debate (as it already has in France) about the practices of this industry-- and how much people are willing to believe. How manufactured confidence manipulates the market. It is less an expose than a film that allows the general public to view and hear the personalities involved in the production and dissemination of wine. What really makes the film are the vibrant and dogmatic personalities involved.

(As a side note the French Professor mentioned Olivier Assays' film "Les Destinées Sentimentales", which is based on the book by Jacques Chardonne (who was a Fascist) which regards the forturnes of a family who is in the Congac trade during the First World War. Unfortunately I don't think his book has been translated into English.)

Mondovino is due to play at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston from April 15th onwards.


Niall Ferguson:,3604,891477,00.html

Les Destinées Sentimentales:

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