In Notorius, Hitchcock hides the whole mystery of the film in a bottle of 1934 Pommard. Which is why some people count Notorius as one of the “wine movies”. But if such a passive role is enough to make a movie a wine movie, than The Secret of Santa Vittoria also has a similiar theme. With wine acting as the secret holder. These kind of symbols are only relevant to the aesthetic of the film. Wine- especially champagne- is also a supporting actor in the James Bond series. (Although Skyfall was loyal to 50 year old Macallan.) The Days of Wine and Roses and Blood into Wine are also lackluster films about wine. The former is a drama about alcohol related problems, the latter a documentary about Tool singer Maynard James Keenan making wine in Arizona. Wine is not at the forefront in these movies, it’s just used in sentences. French Kiss, Year of the Comet, The Kids Are Allright and even Ermanno Olmi’s La Leggenda del santo bevitore are also included in this category. The lack of films focused primarily on wine has led to these films being falsely classified as wine films in some lists.
A Good Year, with it’s setting in vineyards owned by Ridley Scott in Provence, is one step ahead of the pack. The attention devoted to wine is higher in the movie, but not as much as in Bottle Shock. Bottle Shock is a dramatization of the famous “Judgement of Paris”- like the competition wasn’t enough!- and it plays like a joke the Anglosaxon’s play on the French. Although wine looks to be in the lead role, it actually is Chateau Montelena, thus giving the credit to Californian wine-making. Alan Rickmann, who plays Steven Spurrier gives an impressive performance, as does Albert Finney in A Good Year. Wine movies have superb acting. Paul Giamatti is also amazing, in the obvious movie. Sideways is the Platonic ideal of the wine movie, a stunning film with an Oscar winning script. And it really is a good movie. The film also increased the sales of Pinot Noir and decreased Merlot sales, thus creating the Sideways effect, as it’s called in wine literature. Which Tuğba noticed is ironic, because Miles does not drink a drop of Merlot in the movie, his favorite wine is Cheval Blanc! But wine is at the center of the movie, and it effecting to watch. We have not seen anybody who did not drink two bottles after watching it. No film after it has surpassed it in quality, but a film with wine at it’s center has emerged from the least likely of places: The Czech Republic! It’s called Bobule. Which means grapes in Czechoslovakian. It’s about an Argentina and Trapiche wine lover grandfather and his con-man grandkid, and it’s really fun. Some scenes make you fall of the chair from laughing. And, we repeat, (no joke) it takes place in the Czech Republic.
One of the wine movies in the documentary format that must be mentioned is sommelier, cinematogropher and writer Jonathan Nossiter’s Mondovino. Mondovino is a powerful documentary that shocked the wine world when it came out. Narrated and edited in a controversial way as to provoke argument, some argued that it combined opposing ideas in a grotesque manner. Although it was a documentary, it was shown in the official competition at Cannes, which is indicative of the support the French were giving Nossiter. Mondovino is a film against Mondavi and other global corporations, and the iconic figureheads of these corporations such as Parker and Rolland. The movie is against standarsation and globalisation of wine styles by eliminating authenticity. The goal is obvious: To save wine. The Sardinian old man at the vineyard is especially heart-breaking to watch. For me, Mondovino is one of the last breathes this tortured planet of ours is taking, in the disguise of a movie. Nossiter’s style is reminiscent of Carlo Petrini, founder of the slow-food movement. The main difference is that Nossiter obviously entered the editing room with hostile feelings, which is not what a objective documentary film-maker should do. (Although maybe a documentary can be subjective too?) All throughout the film, Rolland appears as the villian, with his financial obsessions and irritating laugh. And Parker? You get turned off by wine when you see his house! Rolland showed an understanding attitude toward the movie, but Parker was agressive and punched below the belt, calling Nossiter the “Gestapo of Wine”. This controversy obfuscated the real message of the movie and turned it in a polemic vehicle. Last year, Nossiter also introduced the 10 hour long unedited cut of the movie. He remains to be an influential figure in the wine industry, not just due to Mondovino, but also because of his books Liquid Memory and Taste and Power.
We can seperate wine cinema into three categories: 1) Dramas with wine as the central theme 2) Dramas with wine in the background and 3) Documentaries about wine and wine-making. Approxamitely!
When you look at how many people in the movie industry are involved with wine (Coppola-Niebaum Estate, Lucas-Skywalker Vineyards, Depardieu- Chateau de Tigne, Dan Akroyd- Dan Akroyd Wines, Sam Neil- Two Paddocks Vineyard, Antonio Banderas- Anta Banderas, Olivia Newton John- Koala Blue Vines…) we haven’t watched nearly as much films about wine as we should.
—–To be continued—