“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 high-flying Chinese market in
Warwick Ross & David Roach’s highly entertaining documentary, Red Obsession (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
“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 unprecedented good fortune.
They worry the anticipated premium prices might further destabilize the
market, essentially excluding many traditional customers. Of course, there will be those still willing
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 extraordinary 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
& Ross 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 in a family outlet.
Some of them, like cosmetic mogul and TV presenter Yue Sai Kan are quite
charismatic. A portrait emerges of conspicuous consumption and a near complete
lack of risk aversion that provides tremendous context on China’s economic
course, Obsession is still all about luxury
wines. 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. Smart, stylish, and sometimes rather witty, Red Obsession is a completely engaging
documentary. Highly recommended, it
opens this Friday (9/6) in New York at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Bordeaux, China, Documentary