Mondovino
dir. Nossiter
Opens Fri May 13
Cinema 21

Mondovino is a documentary about wine. And it's over two hours long.

Now, here's why you should go see it: Filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter is either a genius or an extremely lucky drunk, but either way, his documentary about wine somehow gets to the heart of globalization without being boring or pedantic. Turns out the wine industry is a perfect lens through which to view globalization: It's strongly rooted in tradition and craft, yet it's newly subject to the whims and pressures of the global economy.

The film opens with the Mondavis--wine hotshots from California--attempting to buy out a small vineyard in France. Though the Mondavis are defeated, this conflict sets the tone for the rest of the film. Nossiter takes his camera to vineyards in Brazil, France, California, Italy, and Argentina, interviewing any and everyone involved in wine production. A pattern quickly emerges: Wine traditionalists are being ousted, replaced by manufacturers concerned only with appealing to the broadest possible audience.

Moreover, Americans are increasingly setting the standards for wine consumption. Our vast purchasing power has begun to dictate taste, resulting in homogenization. Nossiter doesn't point too many fingers, but it's pretty obvious who the bad guys are--and it's definitely not the 80-year-old Frenchman who's trying to keep a corporation from buying his family's farm.

It may be hard to believe, but Mondovino isn't boring. Granted, some of the interviews are a bit dry--but luckily, Nossiter has the attention span of a six-year-old, so he keeps it real. (Whenever an interviewee starts to ramble, the camera meanders off to film a dog, or pans across the invariably beautiful landscape.) He also manages to get close to his subjects, who range from rural farming families to a manic wine consultant who advises client after client to "micro-oxygenate" their casks. There's enough levity here to sustain the film's momentum, and enough insights into globalization to make this a film worth watching--whether you're a wine drinker or not.