25 November 2020

Film review: Disrupting Wine (2020) by Johan Rimestad, ***

Synopsys 

Documentary about the founder of Vivino, Heini Zachariassen. Vivino has more than 43 million downloads worldwide and has its HQ in San Francisco. (from the film’s website) Of course: for wine just as for anything else innovation blooms in silicon valley.

Review 

Too much about the life of the founder and his family and not enough about the Vivino application, its features, its very useful role in the hands of wine lovers and sommeliers alike. While some facts about Heini would obviously be in order to understand the genesis of the app, this is not supposed to be about him but about IT, VIVINO! Also, one gets the impression that the creator of Vivino treats wines as if they were any other commodity, he could have made an app about different kinds of detergents. I feel that is not the case but Heini's passion for wine does not come through.


 

23 November 2020

Film review: A Year in Burgundy (2013), by David Kennard, ***

Synopsis

The film follows Martine Saunier seven wine-making families in the Burgundy region of France through the course of a full year, and delves into the cultural and creative process of making wine, as well as its deep ties to the land. What lies within the rhythm of a year, from vines to grapes to wine? 

The film is in four season-sections, and plays out against that backdrop: spring showers, drought, heat wave, hail and storms, harvest moons and the damp cold of winter. Each vintage is a time capsule, a bottled piece of history of a very specific year, with its particular weather pattern, its crises and its triumphs. It all goes in, whether you want it to or not, and 2011 was full of drama. (from Ibmd)

Review

A bit of a disappointment. If you don't know anything about Burgundy you will certainly learn something. If you've been there a few times you will still get a few bits here and there but not much. Much of it is cliche. Brugundy deserves better. Still, if you have it for free on Prime and want an easy evening, go ahead an watch it, with a glass of Burgundy wine in hand of course.


19 November 2020

Film Review: A seat at the table (2019) by David Nash and Simon Mark-Brown , **


Synopsis

A New Zealand winemaking team enters the period known as Vintage when wine is made 24/7 for months on end. Sleepless nights, endless labor, time away from home means they must ensure nature, science and magic come together to overcome each challenge Vintage presents. (from imdb)


Review

A missed opportunity. The makers of this documentary had access to the whole process of harvesting at a large New Zealand vineyard but we learn very little in over one hour of watching this repetitive production. We hear a hundred times how hard the work is during harvest, and how awesome everyone in the multinational team of pickers is, but little else. 

One curiosity: lots of pigs apparently threaten the harvest at night, and even deer. As for birds, they try and do their share of eating but mostly cause botrytis, which is some parts of the world is welcome as it allows to make sweet wines, but not here.


Read my reviews of films about wine here.

09 November 2020

Film review: Somm, into the Bottle (2015), by Jason Wise, ****

Synopsis

Sequel to the previous Somm movie of 2012, this documentary takes the viewer into the private world of famed producers (who open exceptional bottles for the occasion).


Review

A peek into cellars that most of us humans will never get into, and a good dose of self-irony about a profession that means different things to different people. Definitely recommended after the first.

We learn that the word "spirit", used for alcoholic beverages, comes from the fact that wine has been used in religious functions for a long time, it takes the "spirit" out of the body, especially when abused! Not sure it is true, but it sounds fun.

We also learn that Julius Cesar instructed his legionaries to drink at least a liter of wine a day, more before going into battle.

One somm opines that aging wine in wood is like adding salt to food: you may need it to exalt the flavor, but not too much. Some may not like it at all, of course. But if you do choose to oak a wine, beware: your barrel is going to be like a wife for your wine, choose well or your wine will pay the price for your mistake!

A few spoke about scoring wines. Some find it useful, some hate it as an oversimplification that is not reliable: no single somm will score the same wines the same way if given the same bottles blind over again.


01 November 2020

Film review: The Barolo Boys (2014) by Paolo Casalis and Tiziano Gaia, ****

The story of a group of Barolo producers, friends, colleagues and competitors at the same time, who broke with tradition to find their own call.

Barolo was mostly cheap, unknown and unloved until the early 1980s. It was a difficult wine, harsh, unfriendly, tannic, and it required a very long time to age and become more pleasant.

A bunch of producers, led by Gaia and Altare among others, decided to change that: they started reducing yields by green harvesting (removing some bunches before they ripen, so as to leave fewer but better bunches on the vine) and using new and small oak barrels.

The result was amazing, Barolo became well known, expensive and veery much loved. But not everyone was happy





 

26 October 2020

Arrivo a Roma da Londra e tampone COVID-19

Decido di andare in Italia, e prendo l'aereo. Volo British Airways, partenza in orario. 

Dopo il decollo ci danno 3 moduli da compilare per le autorità italiane. Una pagina ciascuno, scritto fittissimo, con un carattere dimensione 4 o 5, quasi illeggibile. Bisogna inserire sempre le stesse informazioni: nome, cognome, indirizzo, recapito telefonico, ecc. firma con data e ora, OK fatto. 

Appena arrivati in aeroporto la polizia di dice che uno dei moduli non va bene, è vecchio, e ne dobbiamo riempire un altro, che però è identico! Passato il controllo doganale ci informano che la postazione aeroportuale per effettuare il test COVID-19 è chiusa, funziona solo fino alle 18. Invece ce ne sta un'altra, aperta 24 ore, al parcheggio di lunga sosta, a qualche km di distanza. Mi consigliano di andarci adesso (sono le 22) perché se tornassi domani, come sarebbe mia facoltà fare, troverei una fila d'attesa più lunga. 

Ritiro l'auto in affitto e vado al parcheggio lunga sosta, dove arrivo alle 22.30. 

C'è una fila di un centinaio di macchine, non male dopotutto. Passa una mezz'ora e sono arrivato allo sbarramento, l'impiegato mi fa passare e... mi trovo a fare un'altra fila in un parcheggio adiacente! 

Passa ancora un'ora e finalmente ci fanno passare, ci dicono di andare dritto e poi a sinistra, seguendo i cartelli. Detto, fatto, ed eccoci in un terzo parcheggio, con ancora centinaia di auto davanti a noi. Sono le 23.30 circa.

Qui la fila dura circa due ore. Arriviamo quindi alla postazione della Croce Rossa per fare il test e ci chiedono se avevamo compilato "il modulo". Quale modulo? Un altro modulo con nome, cognome ecc che però nessuno ci ha dato. Un impiegato ce lo fornisce e ci dobbiamo mettere da parte per riempirlo, mentre ci passano davanti quelli arrivati dopo di noi. Uno si è addormentato in macchina, l'addetto a smistare il traffico bussa sul finestrino, gli strilla di svegliarsi, niente. Alla fine apre la porta della sua auto e il tizio si sveglia di soprassalto. Sono le 2 di mattina. 

Finalmente una crocerossina brasiliana (si capisce dall'inconfondibile accento, anche se parla un ottimo italiano) molto gentile e professionale ci fa il tampone, poi ci dice di aspettare in un parcheggio adiacente per il risultato, che ci sarà mandato per SMS. Però i nostri numeri di telefono sono inglesi, ci chiede se abbiamo un numero di cellulare italiano. No, non ce l'abbiamo. Come non ce l'hanno tutti i visitatori stranieri che arrivano a Fiumicino! 

Ci dice di aspettare comunque, e se non riceviamo nulla entro mezz'ora meglio tornare a chiedere. Intanto sono le 02:30 di mattina, son 4 ore che siamo qui. Non c'è modo di avere nulla da mangiare, neanche acqua da bere. 

Però c'è un bagno, a circa 500 metri di distanza, molto pulito e ben illuminato. Ne approfitto...

Ecco che dopo mezz’ora arriva il sospirato SMS, sul mio cellulare col numero inglese, sono negativo, buona notizia, si va a casa. Sono le 3 del mattino.



18 October 2020

Film review: Somm (2012) by Jason Wise, ****


Review

Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. 

The documentary follows them step by step as they prepare and study together, meticulously, for many months, at the expense of their normal lives, their loved ones and their emotional balance.

The test is ruthless, both theory and practice (a blind tasting) demand superhuman qualities, memory, and not a little luck. In the end, those who pass join a club of only some 200 people who ever passed the test and are catapulted to the top of the wine world.




19 August 2020

FIlm review: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009) by Jan Kounen, ****


Synopsys

In 1913 the first performance of the ballet “Le sacre du printemps” took place in Paris. The composer, Igor Stravinsky, is whistled for his radically new music. But in the audience there is a woman who is intoxicated by the dissonant rhythms and feels that this music is just as groundbreaking as her fashion creations: Coco Chanel. 

Seven years passed before the choreographer Sergej Diagilew introduced Coco to Igor Stravinsky, who had since fled Russia to Paris. Coco Chanel invites the penniless composer to live with his lung-sick wife and children in their luxurious villa in Garches and to revisit his spring sacrifice there while she creates the first synthetic perfume with Chanel No. 5. The novel is apparently based on a true story: Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky actually had an affair.


Review

A captivating story of two icons of the XX century, coming from two entirely different worlds (fashion and music) but sharing a revolutionary approach to
their work. Strawinsky owes his professional survival to a woman who almost destroys his family.

Book  
 Film

27 July 2020

Film review: Queen of the Desert (2015) by Werner Herzog, *****

Synopsys

Gertrude Bell, a daughter of wealthy British parents, has no interest in the social life of the London elite. Balls, receptions and the British aristocracy bring her only boredom. She wants to study, learn and above all see the world.

Aspiring to have at least some kind of activity in her life, Gertrude decides to find freedom and move to be with her uncle, who occupies a high diplomatic position in Tehran. From Iran she moves on to Amman and Damascus, some of the main political centers in the crumbling Ottoman Empire.

So begins her lifelong adventure across the Arab world, a journey marked by danger, a passionate affair with a British officer, Henry Cadogan, and an encounter with the legendary T.E. Lawrence.

With an all-star cast, including Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, Damien Lewis and James Franco, Queen of the Desert is the uplifting, inspiring and extraordinary true story of one woman who, against all odds, changed the course of history.


Review

A gripping historical film on the life of an extraordinary woman who carved the life she wanted out of a hard world made for men.

We learn a lot about life in the latter part of the Turkish occupation of what is now Jordan and Iraq, areas where nomads roamed free without borders and ancient religions perpetuated irreconcilable conflicts.

Never seeking power she ended up making political decisions that are still relevant in the Middle East a century later. It would have been interesting if the movie had shown why she helped certain tribes rise to power through British help and not others. In the end, a successful but unhappy woman who spent most of her life alone.



21 May 2020

Film review: Naked Island (1960), by Kaneto Shindo, ****

Synopsis

Filmed on the virtually deserted Setonaikai archipelago in south-east Japan, Naked Island was made in the words of its director "as a 'cinematic poem' to try and capture the life of human beings struggling like ants against the forces of nature". Kaneto Shindo, director of Onibaba (MoC #13) and Kuroneko (MoC #14), made the film with his own production company, Kindaï Eiga Kyokai, who were facing financial ruin at the time. Using one-tenth of the average budget, Shindo took one last impassioned risk to make this film. With his small crew, they relocated to an inn on the island of Mihari where, for two months in early 1964, they would make what they considered to be their last film.

Naked Island tells the story of a small family unit and their subsistence as the only inhabitants of an arid, sun-baked island. Daily chores, captured as a series of cyclical events, result in a hypnotizing, moving, and beautiful film harkening back to the silent era. With hardly any dialogue, Shindo combines the stark 'Scope cinematography of Kiyoshi Kuroda with the memorable score of his constant collaborator Hikaru Hayashi, to make a unique cinematic document.

Shindo, who had worked with both Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa, shot to international fame with the astounding Children of Hiroshima (1952). Eight years later, the BAFTA-nominated Naked Island won the Grand Prix at Moscow International Film Festival (where Luchino Visconti was a jury member). It is now considered to be one of Shindo's major works, and its success saved his film company from bankruptcy. The experience of making Naked Island led Shindo to appreciate 'collective film production', and has been his preferred method of making films ever since. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to release Naked Island for the first time on home video in the UK.


Review

A strange film in many ways: itis not a silent movie but all you hear is background noises and the desperate cry of a woman when she loses her son. Few other words are uttered in the film. The story of a couple and their two sons on an island off the coast of Japan in the immediate post-war years. They have to row their way to the mainland several times a day to fetch fresh water, take the kids to school, buy necessities.

It is a very repetitive film, with scenes of rowing and carrying buckets of water displayed over and over again, but in a way I think it has to be to depict such a lifestyle. Imagine how repetitive it must have been for real people who had to suffer through this. Having said that, it is perhaps a bit too repetitive!

Beautiful photography in black and white.