BACK TO BURGUNDY gets 7/10 Seeing red

Directed by Cédric Klapisch
Starring Pio Marmaī, Ana Girardot, François Civil


Few beverages have as much mystique tied to them as wine. Amongst the oldest alcohols known to man, there is a strange alchemy tied to its production, not just in the making of wine itself, but in the growing of the grapes that go into it, and the very earth they grow from – the terrior. In Back to Burgundy director Cédric Klapisch (Pot Luck, Russian Dolls) manages to channel some of this sense of rich earth from one of the best known wine areas in the world.

With his father sick and dying, Jean (Pio Marmaī) returns to his family home in Burgundy for the first time in a decade, to help with the latest harvest and pressing. Reconnecting with his sister Juliette (Ana Girardot), and his younger brother Jeremie (François Civil), each must overcome their personal problems, as well as those that nature throws at them to lay down the roots of this year’s vintage.

Back to Burgundy manages to convey a terrific sense of the region, and the craft of wine making that has become so tied to it. The subtleties of the weather, the centuries old traditions of tending the vines across the seasons, the lifestyles that have grown up around these traditions, and the way they have been effected in modern times by science and market forces, are all explored here – not merely in the breathtaking cinematography of the film, but also woven into the plot itself. Thankfully this is done in a way that feels organic, rather than forced, all seeming to arise naturally out of the day to day concerns facing a wine-making family in the region.

Threaded through this is the equally important theme of family. As each of the siblings comes to terms with the death of their father and the issues surrounding his estate, they also come to terms with what they want to do for themselves, and what that means to the family dynamic. Central is Jean and his return to the family after a decade away, and the changes that causes, but each of the three siblings have their own issues and development, and none are given short shrift by the script. What is vital is that sense of family that permeates this film, and in a wider sense, the community of the region. It is an integral part of region, part of the rich patchwork of tradition, as viticulture and wine-making practices are passed down from generation to generation. That sense of belonging is infectious, and adds a subtle charm to this film.

A gentle and touching family comedy-drama, it is the rich sense of location that really gives Back to Burgundy a strong finish.