Alcoholics, students and snobs alike can find miracles at the bottom of a wine bottle, and Red Obsession taps into the mystery and thrall of the delicious nectar in a whole new way. Young Einstein directors David Roach and Warwick Ross tackle tradition and trends, discussing the legacy of ancient vineyards in Bordeaux, and the explosion of the Chinese wine market in recent years. The foreign appetite for the famous French wine has caused a gargantuan spike in prices, and the old vineyards are struggling to meet demand overseas while satisfying their traditional consumer base. The story is a study in balance and new frontiers, while equally addressing Western anxiety over the rise of the Eastern colossus.
The film is absolutely gorgeous. Cinematographers Lee Pulbrook and Steve Arnold shoot long stretches of luscious vines, ripe grapes and extravagant châteaux in the French countryside, contrasted with the enormous structures and flamboyancies in China’s busiest cities. Cut between these establishing shots are endless grabs of rich red and white wines pouring into fine glasses—this is simple elegance, backed by unbelievable amounts of cash.
Red Obsession seamlessly blends storytelling with economics—the rise of the ‘investment’ wine, the growing Chinese trend of wine collections as status symbols, and the consequences this holds for traditional vintners. Spokespeople from long-established Bordelais vineyards are spliced with immeasurably wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs (for example, Peter Tseng, a sex toy manufacturing magnate), marketers and more. Sir Michael Parkinson and Francis Ford Coppola both make short cameos in the opening sequences, but don’t receive any further screen-time.
As it is an Australian production, Russell Crowe narrates the documentary, grumbling in his broad way between soft French accents and bright Chinese voices. The effect is a little weird, but doesn’t disrupt the viewing too much.
The subject matter is sometimes addressed with the reverence that makes wine snobs laughable, so the script isn’t for everyone. If nothing else, seeing calculations equalling €240,000,000 appear on screen—or watching people try to shove their entire faces into the mouths of wine glasses—add just enough layman entertainment to keep the rest of us along for the ride.
by Ilona Wallace
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