Sour Grapes

2016

Documentary

1
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 94%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 5092

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
May 19, 2021 at 04:44 AM

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720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
816.21 MB
1280*714
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 28 min
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1.64 GB
1920*1072
English 5.1
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 28 min
P/S counting...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by tributarystu 8 / 10

Schadenfreude

I don't even drink wine, so my understanding of the collector's impulse is bound to be limited. Nonetheless, the themes flowing through Sour Grapes, smoothly prepped in the movie equivalent of a decanter, provide a certain sparkle on the tongue, a deeply flavoured experience with a tinge of Schadenfreude. The latter is essential, as it frames the human impulse behind what is ultimately no more than an astute con.

There's a palpable story at the roots of this documentary: Rudy Kurniawan, a skinny, wise-beyond-his-years kind of fellow, appears on the international wine auctioning scene in the early/mid 2000s and becomes a big player at an impressive pace. If there's one thing that's universally known about the early/mid 2000s, it's that they preceded the latter 2000s - hah, just kidding! But not really, for the decade started with the fake excess of the dot-com bubble and then flourished in the fake excess of the housing market bubble. Per chance (or not), Kurniawan's trajectory does well to parallel these cautionary tales, only that its conclusion is brisk and there were few tears shed about the victims. As one usually does, when it comes to the rich losing out in their Bateman-esque games of self-affirmation and chest thumping.

The fascinating bit lies in the possibility of a fraud existing in a world so tightly strung by expert knowledge. A wine connoisseur has a special kind of fame attached to his or her ability to discern the exceptional from the good. It's something acquired through years of sophisticated training and a lot of expensive wines. Additionally, as important sums of money are thrown around, it is also the kind of area ripe for pretense. Similarly to, perhaps, the market for art collectors, there will always be people who understand art, historically and aesthetically, and those who collect it for the sheer exercise, be it financial or egotistical. The same applies to wines.

It's in this contrast that Sour Grapes comes alive. The story is told through a limited collection of archival footage of Kurniawan and present day interviews with people in the business: collectors, sommeliers, wine producers. It paints this canvas of wine as an ultimately simple and beautiful experience, pandering somewhat to Domain Ponsot's lavishly poetic narrative. Lavish to the point of being hypocritical, even. And it also frames Kurniawan as this endearing character, much liked by those who bought his wines. There's surprisingly little sourness to the movie, especially for so much money being involved. Yet, that also plays into this idea of the exclusive wine club, where people are so enlightened (and rich), that they can look beyond trifling deceptions worth millions.

So perhaps that's part of what I didn't quite like, the neatness of it all, the lack of further prodding. You also get a sense there's a template for these meta-documentaries, where a deeply ironic situation is framed with lyrical prowess, only to sustain some unnecessary ambiguity about its central character(s). Kurniawan is guilty and a bunch of people were defrauded, even if he might have had to bear the brunt of it.

But there's also a certain beauty to being caught in such a great deception, because the contrast is so stark. The story sells itself, so the point of the movie was to somehow capture it with the limited footage it had of its lead. Atlas and Rothwell came good and they also managed to leave any sardonic undertones as just that, undertones. Ultimately, even for someone with no taste for wine, I was excited by the end, having sat through this very particular tasting menu of intricate lies. The thought that nothing is quite black and white lingers in the knowledge that thousands of Kurniawan wine bottles are still in wine cellars around the world.

Some real, some fake - and the afterthought that one might not really want to know the truth.

Reviewed by gavin6942 8 / 10

Brilliant Story

Documentary about the fine and rare wine auction market centering around a counterfeiter who befriended the rich and powerful and sold millions of dollars of fraudulent wine through the top auction houses.

I don't drink wine often, don't particularly care for it, and know next to nothing about collecting it or its value. Despite that, this documentary was fascinating -- the ability to con the best collectors, and the FBI's attempts to track down the con man. It is a great story of crime, as well as a nice tale of pulling one over on rich snobs who might need a good pranking from time to time.

Good documentaries are hard to find, but this is one of them. It covers everything it needs to and never lingers for too long. If it hasn't already happened, someone needs to turn this into a feature film.

Reviewed by paul2001sw-1 9 / 10

At the end of every (not-so-hard) day, people find some reason to believe

The fine wine market is a very peculiar one. Firstly, fine wine is arguably an acquired taste: many people can't tell that good wine is good. You could say that people learn, but you could also say that an elite group have unilaterally determined what fine wine actually is through the simple expedient of being prepared to spend large sums of money on it. Secondly, there's a lot of ritual involved in wine drinking, and those who can wine connoisseurs would actually be very unhappy if fine wine could be bought cheaply, even if it allowed them to drink it more often: a wine bottle is definitely a fetish object, not just the container for some fermented grape juice. And finally, the supply of old wines is finite. If enough rich people want to own (and drink) them as status objects, there's almost no limit to how high the price for a bottle could go. Rudy Kurniawan appeared in the US wine collectors' market in the early 21st century. Apparently a rich kid with a fantastic palate (i.e. he could spot the same differences in taste of the most renowned experts), he soon developed a reputation as a devoted collector of the rarest wines. He was generous in sharing these with his friends (mostly fellow collectors), but he actually bought so much wine that they didn't benefit from his presence overall – the market itself moved under his influence. And when he started to sell from his cellar, you might have wondered if he wasn't just a naive enthusiast overpaying for his hobby, but actually someone smart (and brave) enough to hope to generate (through buying) an enthusiasm for rare wines that could outlast his subsequent selling, the classic technique employed by sellers of penny stocks and many other types of huckster (though it's not necessarily illegal to try and make a market in this way).

What is illegal, of course, is putting new wine in old bottles; and in the event, it transpired that this was what "Rudy" (in fact, not his real name) had done. With the aid of his genuinely good sense of taste, and with the backing of relatives belonging to Indonesian organised crime, Rudy was blending wines to match the taste of the most famous (and expensive) vintages. Because he bought so much real wine, he was able to flood the market with fake. Nonetheless, the story of his ten-year goal sentence leaves a slightly sour taste in the mouth: it seems excessive for the harm caused, the crime being to spoil a game played by rich people for little ultimate effect. One can also note that no-one other than the foreigner has been prosecuted for the fraud: its hard to believe there were others who did not suspect and/or collaborate, but it's possible to conclude that the American establishment has ultimately protected its own. Oddly, some of those defrauded are inclined to cut Rudy more slack than perhaps he deserves. In any case, I strongly recommend this intriguing documentary, a perfectly paced tale whose minor subject is wine: it's major subject is what, and why, we choose to believe.

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