Film review: Red Obsession

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Red Obsession

Reviewed by Barbara Gemignani

Edited by Siobhan Hodge

Film: Red Obsession
Director: David Roach and Warwick Ross
Running Time: 75 minutes
Year of Release: 2013
Language: English

Beyond Money and Love

Australian documentary Red Obsession takes the audience across continents through the story of one fascinating item: red wine. From the chateaus in Bordeaux, France, to the vast lands of China, writer-directors David Roach and Warwick Ross have created a masterpiece that revolves around the economy, transactions and marketing, but also the passion, desire and soul behind a new old trend.

As French vintage cellars have raised perfect harvests, simultaneously raising prices higher, their usual clients, the USA and UK, have had to step back and give room to a new market: China. Narrated by Russell Crowe, the film gives an insight into how some Chinese buyers have developed such an eager interest in this special product, especially for the Chateaux Lafite ’82 wine. The documentary traces how this interest has eventually this these buyers to not only become the biggest customers of French wine in 2011, but to reproduce their own French wine in China.

The Chinese buyers display an immeasurable enthusiasm about bottles of red wine. A single bottle of wine is bought for $1.5 million and the buyer admits she does not even know if she is going to drink it. The actual wine and appreciating the flavour are not worth the money. For some of these customers, this obsession is about possessing something that others cannot get; it is about status. The film highlights the importance of status in China; it is what stirs the wine market and triggers interest in the regular and newest customers, this eagerness to be current with the new trend. It is difficult to think that in China red wine has just become a trend in the 21st century, while in Europe, where wine is a long established tradition, its consumption is not so much about status.

This is where Roach and Ross present the differences between European traditions and innovative Oriental ways. They expose the more rational rituals introduced by the Chinese, but don’t allow the audience to forget that winemaking in France has been one of their most prestigious traditions since Napoleonic times. Statements from French winemakers assure the audience that they bring love and passion into the making; after all, they can’t bear to be blamed for a couple’s date gone wrong because of a bad bottle of wine.

Burkhard Dallwitz and Amanda Brown have done a fantastic job with the soundtrack, creating a captivating atmosphere that attracts even the least interested person in wine or documentaries. The music follows the beautiful photography of the film, between the interviews with winemakers, buyers and critics, leaving the audience yearning for a glass of red wine and a trip to France or China at the end.

Red Obsession ticks all the marks of a perfect production. If you are passionate about wine, history or money, this documentary will certainly please you. As someone who is not so fond of documentaries, I found that every element in this piece was devoted to presenting the most accurate details, compelling me to become immersed in their restless red sea. The balance between statistics, historical facts and statements is distinctive of most films of its kind, allowing the audience to really connect with all the peculiarities of the movie. Red Obsession is as seductive as its central protagonist and the title could not have been another; it really is an obsession worth millions of dollars, and an obsession without boundaries - and this film will make you want to talk about it for a good while.

Red Obsession is now showing at Luna Leederville.