by Randy Fuller Jun 04, 2023

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week we pair wines from France with movies from France, et pourquoi pas?

Last Year at Marienbad was from the heyday of French New Wave, 1961. Director Alain Resnais created a film which people either loved or hated. Seriously, Marienbad has been called “the best film ever made” and “one of the worst films in history.” Surrealists have praised it, so that’s a clue. Surrealists simply don’t make logical sense. After all, how many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb? A fish.

The story centers on a woman and two men at a fancy hotel. One of the men maintains that he and the woman met the year before at a place just like this, maybe this place. He says she promised to go away with him in a year. She tells him she doesn’t know him from Adam and get lost. The other man may be her husband, and he plays math games much better than the first man. It could be all in her mind. It could be all in his mind. Are you ready to consult that surrealist yet?

Marienbad is a dreamscape and has influenced filmmakers from Stanley Kubrick to David Lynch. Or, it’s a nightmare and has influenced nobody. Or, we can’t know what it is because looking at it changes it. This is what it’s like to watch Last Year at Marienbad.

Pairing a wine with this film requires a certain sleight of hand – a wine that is one thing but not what it seems. I want to go with C’est La Vie, a French blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah. Yes, it’s Burgundy meets the Rhône – yes it’s blasphemous – yes, it’s exactly what people have accused California Pinot makers of for years. It’s from the south of France and it comes on like a beefy Beaujolais. It’s $15, so what have you got to lose?

Mon Oncle Antoine is a French language Canadian film from 1971. A teenage boy works at his uncle’s store, living a presumably carefree life as teenagers often do. This was in a time before teenagers were all equipped with skateboards. Nowadays they pass the time with endless scraping, falling and kicking – practicing to become the next Tony Hawk. Back then, the lack of a skateboard meant they had to find other ways to while away the days. Like play. Or work.

The scenes take place in a town called Asbestos, and you get three guesses what kind of mining fuels the economy. Uplifting, huh? The titular uncle, by the way, is also an undertaker. What fun for a young man – to help his elder gather up dead bodies for burial. At least with all the asbestos around, there should be plenty of business. A kid would be hard pressed to get enough of that kind of life. “And I get to do this every day? Can I have a grape soda after?”

In the process of helping out uncle Antoine, the teen is treated to an up-close-and-personal view of unc’s bitterness about the way his life has turned out. To no one’s surprise, the child has a series of traumas and is left at the end of the movie to sort them out on his own. C’est la vie.

Sometimes a winemaker gets a hand from his uncle. Jerome Francois calls his Alsace winery La Grange de l’Oncle Charles – Uncle Charles’ barn. When in Alsace, try the Riesling. If you want to stay Canadian, there are plenty of wineries in the Quebec area. Le Cep d’Argent has a variety of them, including the ever-popular ice wine.

We go to 1963 for another scoop of French new wave. Contempt is by Jean-Luc Godard, and is considered by many to be one of his finer works. It is one of those movies about movies. The story revolves around an American producer getting his grubby hands on the script for Fritz Lang’s film version of the Odyssey.

Before you say, “Oh, not another movie about a reworking of the Odyssey,” let me tell you that Contempt actually has Fritz Lang in it. It also has Jean-Luc Godard in it. Wait, there’s more. This movie also has Jack Palance in it. Pushups, anyone? And it has Brigette Bardot in it. Say no more. It’s French, yes, but it is set in Italy and was filmed there, part of it on Capri.

There are instances of marital infidelity – that’s where the contempt comes in – and some fairly sleazy behavior from a husband who tries to use his wife as a lure in a business deal. More contempt.

If I could find a French and Italian wine, it would be perfect for Contempt. But alas, there is no such thing of which I know. But why not have one of each? From Bordeaux, try Château Côtes de Blaignan, the 2016 Cru Bourgeois gives us a taste of that gravelly soil in Médoc for 30 bucks. From Italy, get a Barolo. Kirkland Signature Barolo is made by a big name producer and sold for $20 or so, not $50, at Costco.

Randy Fuller
NowAnd Zin Wine –
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