Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In Cédric Klapisch's BACK TO BURGUNDY, vintner siblings harvest, fight and reunite

Oenophiles (both real and would-be: who can afford good wines these days?) will probably be drawn to (and with good reason) BACK TO BURGUNDY, the new French film by Cédric Klapisch, one of our favorite, consistently-on-target filmmakers. Whether he is dealing with family (Un air de famille), a group of young, free-spirited students (L'Auberge Espanole and its couple of continuations, as these kids grow up), his lovely/funny/moving ode to the city of Paris, or his look at the French "haves" and "have-nots" (My Piece of the Pie), his films are alert, stylish and eminently watchable. With this new endeavor, M. Klapisch (shown below) returns to the theme of family, this time with a slightly narrower canvas than that of his early work, and the result is a film that resonates ever more strongly as it moves along, uncovering character, growth, humor and immense beauty -- in both its good-looking cast and its gorgeous vineyard locale.

Back to Burgundy (its French title, Ce qui nous lie translates as "That Which Binds Us") begins with a little boy looking out on the vineyard his family owns and describing his feelings about it. It's a lovely scene that immediately engulfs us in the environment of a vintner. This kid will appear now and again throughout the film, especially toward its finale when, in a couple of scenes handled with simplicity and great feeling, the past and present are beautifully united.

Our kid will grow up into a character played by Pio Marmaï (shown below), an actor TrustMovies has enjoyed since seeing him in Living on Love Alone, back in 2010. Marmaï, as Jean, had left his home in France after a falling out with his father, leaving his two siblings to run the family vineyard. He has traveled the world until settling down and starting a vineyard in Australia, where he has formed a strong relationship with a woman and fathered his own son. Now, news of his father's approaching death has brought him back home.

The strong bond between brothers and sister remains, even if it has been frayed a bit, and the movie's major concern has to do with how the three will handle their estate, which, thanks to government taxes, presents some major problems. His sister, played by Ana Girardot (below) is the only one of the three to be presently unattached to some romantic relationship.

Brother Jérémie (François Civil, below) is married to the daughter of a local and competing vintner who is both powerful and controlling. How the three will solve their problem--  which seems to have a number possible solutions -- by joining forces or perhaps with more certainty by remaining apart becomes the thrust of the story. Along the way, we meet various employees, see a harvest or two underway, and get to know subsidiary characters with surprising finesse by Klapisch, who seems to have tamped down somewhat his usual improvisational style to meet the needs of this particular and more formally-told tale.

The film is filled with mostly decent people, doing the best they can while trying to stay out of their own way. Smartly co-written by Kalpisch and Santiago Amigorena with collaboration from supporting actor Jean-Marc Roulot, Back to Burgundy is especially clever in the manner it acknowledges how so many of us prove to be our own worst enemies. On the other hand, these folk's specific problems can also be offset by their specific gifts.

The screenplay also allows us to see those differences in male and female characteristics and how these can be made to work to the advantage of both, to be amused once again by generational differences, and eventually to meet Jean's partner (Maria Valverde, below, right) and the couple's son and begin to understand the vagaries of this relationship, as well. Finally, and despite maybe one coincidence too many, the question of who -- and what -- constitutes family is addressed with emotion and skill enough to make this movie even more moving and encouraging than you may expect.

A film for anyone who loves family, France and wine -- from Music Box Films and running 113 minutes -- Back to Burgundy (in French with English subtitles) opens this Friday, March 23, in New York City (Angelika Film Center), San Francisco (Vogue Theater) and Seattle (SIFF Cinema Uptown) and then on March 30 in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal and Playhouse 7 theaters -- as well as elsewhere across the country, where it will play some 50 locations. Here in South Florida it will open on April 13 at the Savor Cinema, Cinema Paradiso, and the Movies of Delray and Lake Worth. Click here (then scroll down to click on THEATERS) to view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and venues.

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