Indie Spotlight, Reviews — June 1, 2014 at 6:00 am

INDIE SPOTLIGHT: RED OBSESSION

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Red Obsession is a 2013 Australian documentary directed by David Roach and Warwick Ross. Unlike many documentaries that I’ve reviewed here, RO‘s focus is tremendously narrow – first, it looks at the France’s famous Bordeaux wine region, and then it discusses the booming popularity of wine, particularly Bordeaux wines, in China.

I did not read the synopsis for this picture before I saw it. Only about 15 minutes in did I realize that the movie’s title has a double meaning – the obsession for wine, as well as China’s growing obsession with this luxury item. As such, I was very surprised that Red Obsession‘s subject has an appeal that extends far beyond the process of turning grapes into sweet, sweet booze.

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Ultimately, this doc is about the growing power of the Chinese market, the influence that the East and West exert on each other, the forces that impact international brands and how the cost of products can rise, as well as the psychology of how certain things (like wine) can become treasured and popular. Speaking with a variety of wine growers, collectors, journalists, and appraisers, you leave this film with a real sense of how wine works as an investment, why it can become so important to influential people, and how the sudden introduction of a whole new market can alter both prices and the ability to supply goods.

It cannot be understated how important a player China has become on the world stage. The last Iron Man film had special scenes that were only included in its Chinese release. Similarly, the buying power of China’s large affluent population has made bottles of Chateau Lafite and Latour more expensive than ever before. What will wine lovers do when they can no longer afford what they’re accustomed to because the newly-wealthy snap them right up, or because one man paid $50k for one bottle?

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For those with a limited knowledge of the Far East: you won’t feel out of your depth. Both natives and Western insiders explain the way that the Chinese people generally react to things like specific symbols and numbers, as well as their society’s ability to incorporate new things and make those things more familiar. In this way, RO extends itself beyond finance or wine into a full-on sociology lesson for both West and East.

At some point, the face behind one of France’s biggest vineyards talks about how the quality of his product can change the course of a date, and the responsibility he bears for it. Similarly, you see China’s billionaire sex toy manufacturer, and what he says about his profession applies just as neatly to wine as it does to the rows of freshly-made dildos that you see come out of his factory machines. Little moments like these are simply brilliant.

Thank god he's not standing in front of his dildo collection.

Thank god he’s not standing in front of his dildo collection.

All of this thoughtful material would be very dry if Red Obsession weren’t so beautifully-filmed. You see the magnificent chateau of these centuries-old vineyards, as well as their lovely growing fields. I was similarly stunned by shots of Chinese cities and wide stretches of farming territory. Yet even more mundane scenes, like interviews and banquets, are filmed with a good eye for framing and composition. The entire work looks beautiful from beginning to end.

Throughout, the familiar voice of Russell Crowe provides narration that’s quite illuminating. He sets the scene and provides necessary background, explaining the way that Bordeaux became the world’s most important wine producing region, why critics’ ratings change the price of a vintage, and how Chinese consumption of wine would require a massive new series of vineyards.

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Red Obsession was fun, educational, and beautiful to look at. Its brisk 74-minute running time makes for a lean documentary that could never bore the viewer, and I found it gave me plenty to think about – not only about wine, but about international trends that can influence prices and events around the whole world. I strongly recommend that you watch this lovely, thoughtful picture. Filmbuff has made this film available for rental or purchase through ITunes, Amazon, Vudu, PlayStation, CinemaNow, and Youtube.

♥♥♥♥

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