BACK TO BURGUNDY
Director: Cédric Klapisch
Screenwriter: Cédric Klapisch and Santiago Amigorena, with collaboration from Jean-Marc Roulot
Runtime: 113 mins.
Australian release date: 5 July 2018
Previewed at: Luna Leederville, Perth, on 5 July 2018.
Cédric Klapisch is known for his trilogy of films about a conflicted, unsettled male called Zavier (Romain Duris), who first appeared in The Spanish Apartment, then in Russian Dolls and finally (so far) in Chinese Puzzle. Now, in Back to Burgundy, Klapisch has created a film about a very similar character, only this time he’s called Jean and he’s played by Pio Marmaï. He suffers from the same sort of restlessness as Xavier and is struggling to reconcile with the fact that he has to face up to reality and accept the responsibilities that come with aging – to be succinct, he needs to grow up.
Now 30, Jean has been roaming the world, having fled his native Burgundy and the father with whom he was always fighting when he was a callow youth, and has settled in Australia where he has an Argentinian wife (María Valverde), a young child and a small vineyard. When he receives word that his father is ailing and on his last legs, he rushes back to France and arrives to find his pére barely clinging to life and unable to speak. Moving back into the family homestead, he reunites with his sister Juliette (Ana Girardot) and brother Jérémie (François Civil), but relations are somewhat frosty, given that he’s had no contact with them for about five years. The trio are forced together, however, when the old man dies and they learn that he has left his domaine, a well-established vineyard, to the siblings collectively, meaning that they cannot sell out to a third party. To compound matters, they owe estate taxes of half-a-million Euros to the government and it’s harvest time, which means they have to work together and learn to compromise. All the while, Jean has his wife and son on the phone asking him when, or if, he’s returning to them.
Back to Burgundy is, more than anything else, a paean to the grape, the seasons and wine-making. Klapisch’s cinematographer, Alexis Kavyrchine, beautifully captures the changing landscape, with particular focus on the vines, for an entire year as nature takes its course while Jean dawdles over his decision. This allows us to appreciate the full cycle of life on a working vineyard that follows traditional methods – this domaine is organic and both the father and his offspring eschew the use of insecticides and chemical sprays. Accordingly, the film is beautiful to watch, if a little documentary in style.
Where B2B falls down, certainly in comparison to the director’s body of work, is in the script. The screenplay has always been of crucial importance in his earlier films but this one lacks vitality. The siblings at the heart of the story aren’t terribly likable, it must be said, and although there’s conflict, there’s little tension. Indeed, when things hot up between the family, as they do quite often, editor Anne-Sophie Bion often cuts away from the action. There’s some recompense to be had, however, in Christophe 'Disco' Minck’s delightful score.
All in all, if you’re happy to spend almost two hours wandering through vineyards in Burgundy, then this film’s for you, but if you’re looking for a bit more body in your films you’d be better off staying in and opening a good bottle from Burgundy. À votre santé!