“Red Obsession” begins as a paean to Bordeaux vineyards and their centuries of tradition, celebrating their prime vintages as works of art with shots of cultivated land stretching to the horizon, serried rows of casks in “caves,” and sturdy horses pulling plows between the vines as the owners wax poetic. But Warwick Ross and David Roach’s documentary abruptly switches to the business side of wine and the tremendous demand in China for premium Bordeaux, driving prices to astronomical heights. The film’s rather simplistic cultural juxtapositions, pitting artistic appreciators against status-seeking philistines, work best when narrowly focused on the subject of wine.
Ross and Roach apparently share the French ambivalence about the fact that the grape became too expensive to drink, and that wine buying shifted from European connoisseurs to Asian collectors and investors. Modernist picturesqueness dominates the filmmakers’ Chinese visuals, from shots of multitudes of red silk-garbed tai chi exercisers to time-lapse photography of a 30-story skyscraper built in 15 days. Fabulously wealthy Asian collectors admit to paying millions for their new “obsession” while the more adventurous buy chateaus in France or else start up their own enormous vineyards in Mongolia.