Review / ‘Back to Burgundy’ (M) **** and a half

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FEW films have charmed and satisfied me more than this family saga set in a wine-making domain in France’s Burgundy region.

Writer/director Cédric Klapisch is in no hurry to tell about a vigneron father’s three adult children who inherit the land, vines, equipment, cellars, debts and business obligations. A perceptive screenplay goes among the relationships within the family and with their neighbours, sequences telling how the French make wine and depictions of the seasons and what they purport for an arduous and technically complex business.

Returning after a decade’s absence to farewell his dying father, elder son Jean (Pio Marmai) arrives just as sister Juliette (Ana Girardot) and younger brother Jérémie (François Civil) are wondering whether harvesting the white grapes should start next Monday or this Wednesday. Decisions of such importance have hitherto been taken by their dying father. Now the children must decide that and every other matter concerning the business. It’s not straightforward. They have only what they have learned from him.

Family is a major element of the package. Juliette is perhaps the toughest of the three, ambitious to manage a vintage from harvest to fermentation and preparation for decanting. Jérémie has married a neighbour’s daughter and they have a small son. Jean’s travels have taken him to Australia where he has acquired a couple of vineyards, a winsome wife Alicia (Maria Valverde struggling valiantly to replicate an Australian accent) and a son going on five.

Explaining much about the wine-making process and the vigneron’s art, the film is better than merely didactic. Its development of characters is exemplary. Its images depicting the four seasons and the stages within each season are lovely, rich, informative about what we who aren’t directly involved might only take for granted.

There’s a brief sequence purporting to have been shot in Australia. Jean’s decision, after two vintages back in Burgundy, to return here strikes me as a respectful homage to Australian wine.

And overlaying the whole of the film’s 113 minutes is a sense of deep affection for the myriad of details that wine-making involves.

At Palace Electric and Dendy

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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