Film review: Back To Burgundy

The theme of Back To Burgundy is a well-trodden path: generational change and succession. (Photo: Still from Back To Burgundy: Classic Cinemas)

As wine has become more and more mainstream, films with a wine theme have become more common. The most fondly remembered is undoubtedly the highly entertaining Sideways.

Back To Burgundy, directed by Cedric Klapisch, has none of those failings and is a good story well told.

Red Obsession and Mondovino were two excellent documentaries of recent times. Among fictional movies, some have suffered from lack of realism (A Walk In The Clouds) or inaccuracies in their depiction of a true story (Bottle Shock), or just plain ignorance about viticulture and winemaking. Back To Burgundy, directed by Cedric Klapisch, has none of those failings and is a good story well told.

The theme is a well-trodden path: generational change and succession. Dad dies and kids disagree over what should happen to the vineyards and winery. In this case, they also have to stump up half a million bucks to pay the French inheritance tax.

The central character is Jean, a young man who rebelled against his dad and left the family bosom a decade earlier. He’s been working in wine in other countries and has settled in Australia where he has a partner and child. The plot’s key tension is that he is torn between two worlds. Will he return to Burgundy and work in the family domain in Meursault with his siblings, or go back to Australia?

The action occurs in Burgundy – which is beautifully shot, incidentally – and praise for accuracy goes to Jean-Marc Roulot, owner of the outstanding domain of that name, who is also a professional actor (but only has a bit part in this movie).

It is a touch slow-moving, in a bucolic kind of way, but didn’t bore me. There are several excellent set-piece scenes – such as when Jean catches a neighbour spraying toxic chemicals on the family’s vines, while a child is nearby. When Jean assails the neighbour, who remonstrates that the chemical isn’t harmful, Jean challenges him: if the chemical is safe, why is he wearing a full-length protective suit and breathing mask?

One disappointing deus-ex-machina: near the film’s end, the succession tax – which seemed a terminal obstacle at the start of the story – is casually dismissed with a throw-away line, which suggests Jean will pay it by selling some of his Australian wine stocks. It doesn’t convince.

I saw Back To Burgundy at the Palace Norton theatre in Sydney. It should still be in the cinemas this week.

One thought on “Film review: Back To Burgundy”

  1. Mahmoud Ali says:

    I really enjoyed this film. I saw it when on board a long-distance flight across the Pacific earlier this year. Nice to hear about the Roulot connection. Thanks.

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