The French import Back to Burgundy is a big, rather shameless slice of Oscar bait that also sports some interesting ideas about depicting sense memories. Beginning with a lovely extended time-lapse shot of the seasons, the story follows an Australian-based winemaker (Pio Marmaï) who returns to the family vineyard in France after a decade of estrangement. Faced with a whopping inheritance tax, he and his siblings (Ana Girardot and François Civil) must decide whether to sell off the most valuable plots, or fully commit to the day-to-day operations.
Watching people work can be an underrated virtue in the movies, and director Cédric Klapisch brings an absorbing, tactile feel—grape stomping has rarely looked this ravishing—to the various nuts and bolts of the profession. Unfortunately, the increasing moments of downtime prove to be rather less engaging, trafficking in well-worn plot devices—each family member gets one (1) easily conquerable stumbling block—and dialogue that probably didn’t cause any undue strain on the subtitlers. (“If you like wine, you make wine” is about as deep as it gets.)
Still, what ultimately lifts Back to Burgundy out of the genial crowd-pleasing doldrums is in how it handles its flashbacks, drifting between present day triggers and past events in novel, disarmingly fluid ways, sometimes within the very same shot. While the end results won’t surprise anyone who has seen more than a handful of movies, this sense of timelines happening simultaneously gives an unusual, lingering resonance to the film. If it wins awards, you most likely won’t mind.
Back to Burgundy opens on March 23 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. For more information about this and other films opening this weekend, visit Movie Times.