EDITOR’S NOTE: We happily discovered Dr. Pearl Brandwein while reviewing MHz Choice subscriber feedback on our programs and, after reading a half dozen or so of Dr. Brandwein’s insightful reviews, all of us here at MHz Choice had the same thought: We need to get the good doctor to write for us! Enjoy! -MHz Choice

“In Vino Veritas” —in wine there is truth—just channel Pliny the Elder whose millennia-old adage refers to revealing man’s innermost truths and foibles with every sip.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in A Good Year. Enter protagonists, Erik and Lenny, poster boys for failure, who as outsiders struggle at every turn. Erik, an engineer, is seduced for his employer’s secrets, thereby getting fired and divorced. Lenny, a wannabe fries entrepreneur, kicked out by his girlfriend, now lives in a van. His deadbeat addict/dealer brother gets out of prison and sells Lenny’s food truck, thereby not only stealing his livelihood but also enmeshing him in his resuscitated drug dealing career.

The misadventures continue as Erik hires Lenny to help remove furniture and art from his great-aunt Chantal’s home in the Ardennes in order to pay off inheritance taxes and to acquire her home. Unfortunately, the house is already empty; but when Lenny falls against a fake basement wall, only to find six bottles of 1937 Chateau Rycler, a plan is hatched: sell the bottles as Nazi artifacts from Hitler’s private stock!

Our heroes’ fates are permanently sealed after uncorking a bottle leading to a daisy chain of events beginning their picaresque adventures on the merry-go-round of miscalculations, mistrust and mayhem even though they have the noblest motives for cheating, lying and forging. Greed now controls their thoughts and actions preventing them from breaking their self-attached shackles and going straight.

A Good Year is driven by the schemes and machinations of our duo of rascals whose interactions with an array of accomplices result in Erik and Lenny getting screwed—literally and figuratively.

This black comedy has two literary precedents from which it borrows generously: the “picaresque” novel, “Lazarillo de Tormes” (1554 anonymous novella) and “Candide” (1759 French satiric novella) by Voltaire (Leonard Bernstein’s Tony-Award winning operetta was performed on Broadway [1956-57, 1973]; at the Royal National Theatre [1999]; at the NYC Opera [1982, 2008, 2017]). The other literary precedent is the “novel of manners/decadence” illustrated by Schnitzler’s work, “Reigen,” better known by its cinematic title, “La Ronde,” directed by Max Ophuls in 1950 comprising a daisy chain of 10 pairs of characters before and after the sexual act. (Other noteworthy screen adaptations include Roger Vadim’s 1964 film, “Circle of Love” and Fernando Mireilles 2011 film, “360.”)

For lovers of international literature and cinema, A Good Year is a veritable treasure trove of two literary genres and a cinematic genre—the “Road” picture. Our heroes must undergo a rite of passage; however, self-awareness and the lessons to be learned come at a price –- unfortunately, our heroes, and their partners in crime, never have the means to pay.

NOTA BENE: The wily producers of this limited Belgian series created a fake website for their fake wine as a publicity stunt adding a sense of notoriety and dismay – and hopefully, an anticipatory audience eager to watch the program.

Perhaps the producers were inspired by the great wineries of France, whose decades-old or centuries-old wines can fetch a pretty penny. BON APPETIT magazine (2017) featured an article on Christie’s 2011 sale of an 1847 Chateau d’Yquem wine for $117,000 to Christian Vanneque, who planned to drink it to celebrate his 50 years as a sommelier. This is one of France’s most revered wineries going as far back as the 1500’s. Chateau d’Yquem wines are sweet Bordeaux sauternes with exceptional longevity. The wines are produced in small batches because they are prone to “noble rot” making the remaining white grapes sweeter; hence, their increased monetary value.

Thomas Jefferson, a noted oenophiliac, liked the wine so much, that he ordered 250 bottles in 1784. No doubt, A Very Good Year!

About the author:
A lover of Romance languages and cultures, Dr. Pearl Brandwein has a Certificate in French Culture and Civilization from the Sorbonne. She then earned both her Masters’ degree in French Language/Literature and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University. Dr. Brandwein’s areas of academic expertise include the Renaissance and the Faust Figure in European Literature in addition to 19th and 20th Century Drama. Her other interests include writing about Holocaust Literature.

Dr. Brandwein began her teaching career at Princeton University followed by faculty positions at other academic institutions. In addition to French, she has also taught German, Latin, English Composition and ESL to corporate executives. After academia, she held numerous positions in the public and private sectors working as an Editor/Instructor/Administrator and as a PR professional and business communications executive directing editorial and marketing initiatives for EU clients.

She is a cineaste and a lover of Film Noir, Westerns and foreign films as well as a theatre and opera buff; she also attends concerts, lectures, ballet performances, museum and gallery exhibitions. In her rare spare time, she reads voraciously.


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