Back to Burgundy (Ce qui nous lie)


Juliette (Ana Girardot) is out standing in her field.

(2017) Drama (Music Box) Pio Marmaï, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot, Maria Valverde, Yamée Couture, Jean-Marie Winling, Florence Pernel, Éric Caravaca, Tewfik Jallab, Karidja Touré, Bruno Rafaelli, Eric Bougnon, Marina Tomé, Hervé Mahieux, Didier Dubuisson, Jean-Michel Lesoeur, Fanny Capretta, Charléne Ferès, Julie Leflaive. Directed by Cédric Klapisch

The movies have long had a love affair not just with wine but with winemaking and it’s hard not to understand why. The lifestyle is so enticing, so slow-paced and quiet that it makes a nearly pure opposite of the hectic, chaotic and often stressful life of filmmaking. Wineries are portrayed as serene and pastoral where seasons come and go with regularity and where patience and time are the keys to a really good Chablis.

Of course, when you think “wine” France must come near the top if not the top of the list. The winemaking regions of France each have their own charm; Burgundy among them. Jean (Marmaï) is from that noted region but left his home to travel the world, bored and dissatisfied with his life which his father (Bougnon) has chosen for him. Jean has since married, had a son and started a winery in Australia. However, he is called back to France when his father falls gravely ill.

There Jean greets his two siblings; Juliette (Girardot) who has been running the winery in her father’s absence, and Jerèmie (Civil) who has married into one of the region’s wealthiest families and whose overbearing father-in-law (Winling) is not at all sure that his son-in-law has what it takes to run his operation. The reunion is a bit guarded; each of the siblings have their own baggage and there is some guilt and resentment bubbling just below the surface.

When their father dies, the three children inherit the land and they must come to a decision; whether to sell the land to the father-in-law for a handsome profit, or continue to keep it in the family where it has been for generations. Juliette has been an indecisive leader who has terrific ideas but lacks the self-confidence to implement them in the face of male disrespect and scorn. Jerèmie must weather the invasive presence of his in-laws and assert himself as a man while Jean is torn between two continents. It is a hard thing to weigh an uncertain future against a certainty of financial gain.

Klapisch has a knack for finding life’s little absurdities in the midst of a more sprawling story. In most of his other films, he intertwines several stories into a cohesive whole; he doesn’t do that so much here but that doesn’t mean that he is above giving the mundane an almost epic scope. He utilizes the beautiful vistas of Burgundy in various seasons, juxtaposing the same scene in winter and summer for maximum effect. He also intertwines the childhood selves of the siblings with their adult selves, occasionally having them interact with one another. Klapisch is marvelously inventive in this way without coming off as “Look, Ma, I’m Directing!”

The story occasionally descends into soapiness, but the characters are interesting enough and the performances strong enough to keep the film from getting maudlin. Marmaï has some definite screen appeal and though he hasn’t got a lot of movies on his resume he certainly shows enormous potential. Girardot and Civil also deliver some strong performances but Marmaï is the one you’ll remember.

The movie has a strong sentimental streak and is heartwarming throughout. Cubicle cowboys in the readership may opt to chuck their office existence and go find a French winery to settle down in after seeing this but then again, it isn’t hard to sell a rustic lifestyle to those who lead stressful lives. This was definitely one of the highlights at this year’s Florida Film Festival and for those who missed it, I recommend very strongly to keep an eye out for it on VOD. You’ll be glad you did.

REASONS TO GO: Klapisch always seems to find life’s little absurdities. The cinematography is breathtaking. Marmaï is a charming lead.
REASONS TO STAY: The film mines some “Lifetime Movie of the Week” territory.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of profanity as well as some sexual situations.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Klapisch makes a cameo appearance as one of the volunteer farm workers near the end of the film receiving instructions on how to harvest the grapes.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/18/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 71% positive reviews: Metacritic: 58/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: A Good Year
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
The Most Unknown

Pick of the Litter – March 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Ready Player One

(Warner Brothers) Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg. By the year 2045 the world has fallen into an epic malaise. There isn’t much hope, there isn’t much happiness – except in the Oasis, a virtual world that belongs to the most profitable corporation in the world. When the recently deceased founder of the company initiates a contest that will give gamers the opportunity to inherit control of the company and of the Oasis, it initiates a scramble to find the hidden Easter Egg and win the Oasis. However, there are forces at work that will stop at nothing to get that prize. Directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, the film is based on the pop culture masterpiece by Ernest Cline. March 29

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Foxtrot

(Sony Classics) Lior Ashkenazy, Sarah Adler, Yonathan Shiray, Shira Haas. At a desolate army outpost in the Israeli wilderness, tragedy strikes as it often will there. The family left behind of a young soldier stationed there must come to terms with their grief and loss in the wake of these events. This was Israel’s official submission for the 2018 Foreign Language Academy Award. March 2

Submission

(Great Point Media) Stanley Tucci, Kyra Sedgwick, Addison Timlin, Janeane Garofalo. A professor of writing at a university struggles with his own writer’s block and that creeping feeling that his best work and happiest days are behind him. He takes an interest in one of his students whose work is sensual and erotic, and who apparently has a major crush on him. However, he discovers that the attention comes at a terrible price. March 2

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

(A24) Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan. A gifted young writer creates a book that becomes a national phenomenon – and a national controversy – and then he disappears completely from view. A detective with murky motives goes on the trail of the missing author, digging up unsavory secrets about his past in the process. March 2

The Death of Stalin

(IFC) Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin. When the dictator Joseph Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was plunged into chaos as various factions fought for control. Master satirist Armando Iannucci (In the Loop) turns these events into a wicked comedy that is both irreverent and perhaps, a look at what modern politics have devolved into.  March 9

Itzhak

(Greenwich) Itzhak Perlman, Toby Perlman, Alan Alda, Billy Joel. One of the greatest violinists to have ever lived certainly wasn’t  a sure bet for greatness when he started out. A polio victim, he fought to be taken seriously as a musician when teachers and others only saw his crutches. He rose nonetheless to become one of the greatest musicians of our time and a man whose passion for life is as infectious as his violin playing. March 9

The Forgiven

(Saban) Forest Whitaker, Eric Bana, Jeff Gum, Morné Visser. After the end of apartheid in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu meets with a brutal murderer in a notorious prison; one seeking answers in a murder forgotten by the authorities, the other seeking redemption. Based on actual events, this story was a powderkeg of controversy in the early years of Nelson Mandela’s presidency; veteran director Roland Joffe was behind the camera for this one. March 9

Maineland

(Abramorama) Miao Wang. There has been an enormous wave of affluent children sent by their parents from mainland China to study at private schools in the United States. Some of the expectations of the kids, buoyed by American movies, are not terribly reasonable but the reality of their Chinese schooling sends them to a country far away from their home with great hopes nevertheless. March 16

Back to Burgundy

(Music Box) Pio Marmaï, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot. Master director Cédric Klapisch returns with this heartwarming tale of a young prodigal son, who left his family vineyard in Burgundy to see the world, returning when his father falls ill. Reuniting with his sister and brother, the three must rebuild their relationship and their trust in one another if they are to weather this crisis. March 23

Getting Grace

(Hannover House) Daniel Roebuck, Madelyn Dundon, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook. A teenage girl who is in the final stages of terminal cancer befriends a socially awkward funeral director in an effort to find out what will happen to her after she dies. Her zest for life and unconventional attitude give him the courage to be himself. Roebuck, who plays the funeral director, also directed the film. March 23

Beauty and the Dogs

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Mariam Al Ferjani, Ghanem Zrelli, Noomen Hamda, Mohamed Akkari. A film based on actual events, this follows the fight for justice by a young Tunisian woman who undergoes a terrifying ordeal after leaving a student party with a mysterious young man. Her battle will be uphill since the law favors the side of those who torment her. March 23

Caught

(Cinedigm/Great Point) Mickey Sumner, Cian Barry, April Pearson, Ruben Crow. A couple, both journalists, living in the idyllic English countryside, go out for a walk on the nearby moors and snap some pictures of apparent military activity there. Not too long afterwards, a strange couple dressed similarly show up at their door asking what seem to be polite questions at first but as the questions grow more bizarre and personal, they soon realize this isn’t an ordinary man and woman and the two journalists will have the scoop of the century – if they live to file it. March 30

The China Hustle

(Magnolia) Jed Rothstein, Alex Gibney. Wall Street is at it again. Chinese companies, based in America, have been attractive to investors since the Chinese economic boom of the last decade. Hoping to make up their losses from the 2008 recession, there has been heavy investment in these 500 or so companies. The trouble is that they are paper companies – they don’t actually produce anything. Fraud is being perpetrated on a massive scale and the government knows about it. As one of the financial experts says grimly, “Hold on to your wallets.” March 30