by Françoise Pie
Dec 15, 2017

Sangiovese was filmed in the summer of 2016 in New York City. Directed and produced by Françoise Pie. Starring Reece Cox & Alice Longyu Gao. Music and Reading by Nick James Scavo. Costume by Vaquera. Style & Tattoos by Bryn Taubensee.

A Brief Introduction to Sangiovese

Françoise Pie is a filmmaker and artist working in experimental film, poetry, and fashion. Her first film, Sangiovese, is a suite of video-tone-poems, or, an expanded trailer set for a speculative serialized TV drama, distilling the sketched mayhem of Pie’s pilot soap opera Boys of Gastown into rarefied form: something hoping to actually exist as a film, but subject to the contemporary media collapse of our filmic condition in its attempts to exist.

Based on a series of imagist poems chronicling a fanfiction romance between The Sopranos characters Carmella Soprano and Furio Giunta, the film traces a breakdown of media across Pie’s contemporary film activism: a technical evocation of sensationalized disintegration in both cinema and internet videography. Her methods trace a crisis of poetry that mutates into fanfiction, a crisis of the filmic apparatus in the material dilapidation of Mini-DV and the archive, and a crisis in narrative that splits scenes through meta-technological shock-cutting as a means of filmic flight. Likewise, the film exhibits a crisis of TV that abridges a series to become a simple trailer, a crisis of space and the opening of striations into set accessibility (ISSUE Project Room), a crisis of fashion that depreciates the seasonal runway into amateur character costume, a crisis of characterization in Carmella and Furio’s simultaneously adorned reference and insistent absence, and a crisis of sound that leads to a grossly ephemeral OST. The film is an evacuated assemblage previewing a co-compositionally romantic media collapse — a total funeral of media across her employed practices.

Yet, Sangiovese has managed to encompass a deeply amorous take on domestic dysfunction, ornamentation, demagoguery, murder, resistance, and cultural alterity, often addressed through gleefully evacuated media gestures that verge between clinical detachment and passionate subterfuge. The general tableau of The Sopranos provides an already implicit critique: a critique of the institutionalized American 20th century’s progressive catastrophe through the case-study of the Mafia as a traditional disruption: a shoddy bridge over troubled water. The film’s pace and sense of drama is a material homage to this disruption — a diabolical, mob-like blueprint that tensley clings to an emphatic appeal to kinship: a dire group clinic around the systematic dissolution of the scene, the community, the family.

This exasperation is enhanced by a fleeting cross-section of a multiplicitous downtown faux-minimalist iconography — from hybrid thai Luk Thung music to a recontextualization of the pastoral Herzogian Popul Vuh OST into delusional a Rhys Chatham-esque dirge, evoked in the senseless uptown negotiation of a medieval tapestry — specifically the use of the “The Unicorn Tapestries,” on view at The Met Cloisters overlooking Upper Manhattan, New York City. Through woven fine wool and gilded silk, the tapestries depict scenes of a hunt for the elusive, magical unicorn — an ineffable icon, like that of Carmella, tamed, tethered to a tree, constrained by a fence (by Tony Soprano). Yet, the fence is low enough to leap over: The unicorn could escape if it wished. Clearly, confinement is a happy one, like Sisyphus’ rolling rock. The ripe, seed-laden pomegranates in the flora imagery –a medieval symbol of fertility and marriage — testify this. The red stains on his flank do not appear to be blood; rather, they represent juice dripping from the bursting pomegranates above.

Not only a work of black magic and collapse expressed as a lo-fi intersection between clinical detachment and sardonic irreverence, Sangiovese is also the most widely grown grape in Italy, comprising about 10% of the vineyard area. There are dozens of different clones of this grape. It requires a long growing season, as it’s “early to bud and late to ripen.” In cooler years, these tendencies can lead to high acidities and harsh, unripe tannins. In years where full ripening is possible, the grapes tend to have red and black cherry aromas, with dried cherry, dried berry, spice and savory notes coming through on the palate.

Please enjoy Sangiovese. — Nick James Scavo