dir. Mark Tchelistcheff, USA/Russia/UK/Italy/France 2013.
Any festival where I can see a documentary about wine on an IMAX screen is ok by me. Bonus when the man who arranged what became the Judgment of Paris is there for Q&A.
And even better when the doc, ANDRÉ: THE VOICE OF WINE, is so intended to be shared on as massive a screen as possible. Sweeping helicopter shots of Napa’s vineyards and surrounding vistas, luscious close-ups of grapes and the laborers who cultivate them, and Ralph Fiennes caressing every syllable of his tender narration. A film 10 years in the making that shares 94 years of history that earns its right to be writ large.
Although the film is a family affair, with director Mark Tschetlitscheff relating the life and work of his grand-uncle André, it benefits from his personal attention and curiosity without feeling like a mere lionization of the man. Together with some specially-credited mentorship from Walter Murch, perhaps in the same way André nurtured the generations of talent that eventually made California wines known to the world, Tschetlitscheff the younger structures the events and ideas of the piece fluidly and dramatically while letting the subjects simply share their experiences.
One segment in which a couple of André’s protégées recall in counterpoint the time in which, during a typically long day of taking endless notes on a tasting tour, their mentor praised a wine they all knew to be “flawed”, is particularly telling. His reason for doing so, which I will not “spoil” here, is simple and speaks to how much he values the essence of wine itself.
Being exposed to his ideals and methodology both from his own mouth, as well as inherited by his students who went on to the peak of the wine world, one truly begins to appreciate the earth, wind, rain, and other natural elements as the tellers of a wine’s story, and a vintner as merely the conduit. I found myself reading the subtitles whenever he was speaking, even though it’s all in English. The text is there perhaps to make up for the archival quality of those recordings, or maybe his relatively slight Russian accent, but I didn’t want to miss a word.
Covering not just Napa, but André’s origins from and influence over multiple regions, and undertaking some of its post-production right here in Berlin, this offering is another solid fit for the generous context of this festival, and tonight’s subject in particular. Sadly this was not one of the #KulinarischesKino screenings that is accompanied with food and drink pairings, as those sold out within seconds every day. Damn, I’m thirsty.