Back to Burgundy

BACK TO BURGUNDY/ CE QUI NOUS LIE,   France, 2017. Starring Pio Marmai, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot, Maria Valverde, Jean-Marie Winling, Florence Pernell, Eric Caravaca. Directed by Cedric Clappisch. 130 minutes Rated M (Sex scene and coarse langauge)

This is a film to put on the list of French films that are worth seeing. While the English title emphasises the winegrowing area of Burgundy, the French title is more evocative of the themes of the film, Ties which Bind.

Visually, the film is most attractive, opening with a collage of the same view of the Vineyard throughout the seasons of the year. The location photography evokes the world of the Vineyards as well as life in a French town.

It is the characters who hold the interest. Jean offers a voice-over commentary on the events and the characters. He returns after 10 years away, driven away by his dominant father, but returning because of his terminal illness. (Dramatically, it is rather effective to have the reconciliations scene in the hospital placed later in the film, the earlier part concentrating on flashbacks and Jean’s difficulties with his father.) The family have been wine producers. On his return, Jean finds his sister, Juliette, managing the business, the harvest almost ready. There is also the younger brother, Jeremie, who has married a local girl, from a wealthy family and ad insistently dominating father, and they have a child.

Initially, there is great resentment that Jean had left, not made contact for 10 years, refused to come to his mother’s funeral. After an outburst, Jean is able to explain what has happened, his marriage in Australia, the birth of his son, their Vineyard out there.

So, while the timeline of the film shows the decisions about harvesting, the picking of the grapes and the workers who come in temporarily, the pressing of the grapes, the vats, the processes – offering all that any audience might have wanted to know about wine production, and even more…

The drama is interesting in the depiction of the three siblings, the effect of their father’s death, decisions about production, the reading of the will, the joint ownership of the house and the Vineyard, the pressures on Jean to sell his share and go back to Australia, Jeremie and his father-in-law wanting to buy parcels of the land, Juliette and her desire to be an effective wine producer.

There is a strong humanity in the film, audiences being caught up in the lives of the three central characters as well as in the work and the wine production. Pio Marmai plays Jean, and Ana Girardot is Juliette, François Civil is Jeremie. The film was directed by Cedric Klappisch – who knows how to make films about characters living together, bonds, conflicts, with his series of films which began with L’Auberge Espagnol and was followed by Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle.

Palace                          Released July 5th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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