“red” now has happier connotations in today’s go-go China. As home to the most billionaires in the world,
it is hardly surprising China has become an important market for the elite
wines of the Bordeaux region. However, the voraciousness of Chinese demand is
drastically reshaping the international market.
The business of the world’s most expensive wines is analyzed with a
special emphasis on the Chinese market in Warwick Ross & David Roach’s
highly entertaining documentary, Red
screens during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
“First Growth” vineyards of Bordeaux have a formal status dating back to the era
of the Second French Empire. Roughly
once in a lifetime, natural conditions produce a perfect harvest, resulting in
an exceptional vintage, even by the First Growths’ lofty standards. As Obsession
opens, it appears lightning might just strike twice in back-to-back
years. Yet, some wine critics have mixed
feelings about this good fortune. They
worry the anticipated premium prices might further destabilize the market,
essentially excluding many traditional customers. Of course, there will be those willing to
giving viewers a lucid thumbnail sketch of the Bordeaux micro-economy and
soaking up the ambiance of the picturesque region, Obsession makes a dramatic pivot.
The scene changes to Shanghai, where viewers meet the nouveau riche
entrepreneurs buying up Bordeaux at an unprecedented pace. For many, it is a mark of status. For them, nothing beats Latour.
its ostensive topic is wine, Obsession offers
more insight into the contemporary Chinese capitalist class than any recent documentary. As several commentators explain, many of
China’s boldest venture capitalists were once on the business end of the
Cultural Revolution. They are now
absolutely fearless in their business dealings because the prospect of
financial ruin means nothing to them compared to what they have already endured.
& Warwick introduce viewers to many of the billionaires (with a “b”) who
have priced America and Britain out of the market, giving them a human
face. We meet collectors like Peter
Tseng, who made his fortune manufacturing items we cannot discuss on a family
website. Some of them, like cosmetic mogul and TV presenter Yue Sai Kan are
quite charismatic. What emerges is a portrait of conspicuous consumption and a near
complete lack of risk aversion that provides tremendous context on China’s
course, Obsession is still all about
adult beverages. The co-directors
display good ears for soundbites, including several slyly amusing comments from
their interview subjects on the pleasures of partaking. They even scored an on-camera with vintner
Francis Ford Coppola.
It all looks great thanks to cinematographers
Lee Pulbrook and Steven Arnold, who fully capitalize on the sweeping splendor
of the Bordeaux vineyards and Shanghai’s brightly lit skyline. Russell Crowe is
also in fine voice providing the film’s narration (I don’t care what people
say, he wasn’t that bad in Les Mis). Smart, stylish, and sometimes rather witty, Red Obsession is a completely engaging documentary. Highly recommended, it screens tomorrow
(4/20), Monday (4/22), Thursday (4/25), and next Saturday (4/27) as part of the
World Documentary Competition at this year’s Tribeca.
Labels: Bourdeaux, China, Documentary, Russell Crowe, Tribeca '13