A bio of wealthy international industrialist Charles Bedaux, who lived in the first half of the twentieth century, "The Champagne Safari" uses old B&W home movies to recreate the man's dubious expedition into the wilds of northern British Columbia in the 1930s. The film, which also contains interviews with modern biographers, further tells of Bedaux's early life and his later business dealings with Nazi Germany.
Bedaux comes across in the film as extremely unsympathetic. His Canadian wilderness adventure consisted of a huge caravan of vehicles, manpower, horses, and supplies, including cases of champagne and exotic foods. His intent was to "conquer" one of the world's last frontiers. The expedition accomplished nothing of significance; it tore up the environment; and the film clearly shows cruelty to horses. Mostly, the adventure was a publicity stunt aimed at enhancing the man's ego and business interests.
Bedaux was an opportunist who apparently saw nothing wrong with an alliance with Nazi Germany, if it could enhance his power, wealth, and prestige. And in many parts of the film we see him and his wife hobnob with Europe's rich and famous during the 1930s and 40s, seemingly oblivious both to the dangers of Hitler and to the plight of Bedaux's own factory workers.
As a historical cinematic essay on wealthy businessmen, "The Champagne Safari" might have some value as to the mindset of entrepreneurs in the 1930s and 40s. Giving the man an enormous benefit of a doubt, we might conclude that Bedaux was simply a product of his time. But the film, if you'll pardon the pun, is not a pretty picture. And the sooner I can forget this guy, the better.
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