Red Obsession: Tribeca Review

Red Obsession Tribeca Film Still - H 2013

Red Obsession Tribeca Film Still - H 2013

Well made wine doc targets a sliver of an already limited audience.

Russell Crowe narrates a lush look at Bordeaux wines and their appeal to Chinese billionaires.

NEW YORK — Move over, Sinophobes who worry that China will destroy the West with arsenic-tainted produce or computer viruses; a much more important worry is upon us: They're driving up the prices of the One Percent's favorite wine! David Roach and Warwick Ross' Red Obsession offers a respectable look at this rather un-terrifying threat; it will be of interest to some oenophiles and China-watchers but will have trouble attracting others.

Signaling how seriously it takes itself by hiring Russell Crowe to provide sober narration, the lushly photographed doc begins with a promising tour of France's Bordeaux region, taking viewers through centuries-old estates and explaining how this land's wine became the stuff of legend. We meet chateau owners who live and breathe terroir; viewers with a soft spot for Gallic stereotypes will be most taken with Chateau Hosanna owner Christian Mouiex, who charmingly describes his perfectionist tendencies (if a single slightly green grape lurks within a bunch of 250 perfect ones, he will pluck it out) and reports that he has just had a full bottle of wine at lunch.

Roach and Ross provide an informative look not only at the romance of Bordeaux (Francis Ford Coppola recalls tasting a vintage bottled four years after the French revolution, and wonders if Jefferson might have sampled the same wine) but the roles critics and marketing play in price. For all its self-seriousness, this beginning chunk suggests a film that could have relatively broad appeal.

But then we head East, and news that might fill a chapter in a different wine doc takes over the film. In summary: China has become very rich; the Chinese display their wealth by consuming Western luxury brands; famous wine brands are a luxury item whose supply is finite; therefore, rich Westerners who can still afford sports cars and Hermes bags are watching Lafite soar out of their reach. And lo, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Though many of the film's subjects are entertaining (the sex-toy mogul, for instance, with a $60 million wine collection), the film has a tone-deafness with regard to economic class likely to alienate even many wine-lovers in the audience -- many of whom, one imagines, quite like the undiscussed wines of Napa, or Mendoza, or Charles Shaw. Red Obsession targets an already limited demographic, then whittles away until precious few will care what it has to say. Attendees at the Abu Dhabi Film Fest, however, would likely eat it up.

Production Company: Lion Rock Films

Directors-Screenwriters: David Roach, Warwick Ross

Producer: Warwick Ross

Executive producer: Robert Coe

Directors of photography: Lee Pulbrook, Steve Arnold

Music: Burkhard Dallwitz, Amanda Brown

Editor: Paul Murphy

Sales: Peter Rogers, UConnect

No rating, 76 minutes