The director shares his passion for Burgundy and attention to detail.
About a week before Cédric Klapisch was due to start filming Back to Burgundy – a drama about three siblings trying to run their late father’s wine estate – he found himself faced with a casting conundrum. While the director was convinced he had, in Pio Marmaï, Ana Girardot and François Civil, three skilled actors to play the main roles, he wasn’t sure whether the trio truly shared his passion for le vin. The solution? A crash-course in wine like no other.
“Three days before shooting began, we went to lunch at 11am, and the actors drank eight kinds of Burgundy to discover the region,” Klapisch recalls. “At 2pm, they were already completely drunk. But it continued and we went to visit some other vineyards. We talked with different winemakers who, at each point, had them taste different wines. At the end of the night, all three of them were in a daze!”
The sore heads the next morning were worth it, with all three actors looking and acting the part as vintners in Back to Burgundy. The fact that Klapisch did all he could to ensure authenticity is an indication of how important the director’s latest film is to him. For a man who fell in love with wine as a teenager, making Back to Burgundy (French title Ce Qui Nous Lie) was like finally uncorking a bottle from Domaine de la Romanée-conti, producer of some of the world’s most expensive wines.
“When I began drinking at around 17-18 years old, my dad let me taste his wines,” Klapisch recalls. “It’s thanks to him that I learnt about wine. He would take my sisters and me to tastings on Burgundy vineyards. It was a kind of ritual, once every two years or so. I was aware that it was my father who passed down this wine culture and this interest in the Burgundy region. I knew that if I wanted to make a film about wine, it was because I wanted to talk about family – what we inherit from our parents, what they pass down to their children.”
To fully capture what it takes to make wine from grape to bottle, Klapisch went to extraordinary lengths, filming for a full year on the farm of Beaune-born actor Jean-marc Roulot, who also appears in the film. “The cycle of nature had to be respected,” explains the director. “We couldn’t cheat. The beautiful colours of autumn, they only exist for 15 days. We had to shoot during that period, otherwise, it wouldn’t work. And for spring, the fruit trees’ flowers bloom for just one week. The whole film was made upside-down. We didn’t choose the filming dates, it was really nature that decided the shooting schedule.”
Cast members matched their director’s commitment, jumping in with both feet, quite literally. In one of the most memorable scenes Juliette (Girardot) and her brother Jean (Marmaï) climb inside huge containers to stomp grapes. “I had always wondered what it would feel like,” reveals Girardot. “It’s very pleasant. It’s quite hot. I was in a real tank, and there are timings to obey, specific to the tanks. Also, you need to pay attention to alcohol vapour, which can be dangerous. But otherwise it’s real therapy for the feet!”
Girardot’s skills as a farmer did not stop there. Klapisch also expected the actress to learn how to drive a huge tractor. “It’s super-complicated, with 25 different pedals,” Girardot says. “It’s enormous and you get the impression you’re going to kill everyone in its path, it’s so loud. We learnt so much on set about the creation of wine that I’ll never open a bottle in the same way again.”
It was not just the cast who received a wine education on set. Even an oenophile like Klapisch left the region a changed man after a year. “They say the place where we shot, between PulignyMontrachet, Chassagne-montrachet and Mersault, has the best white wines in the world, and I think they’re right,” he says. “In Burgundy, we drank exceptional wines that you can’t drink in Paris, either because they are too expensive, or because they’re impossible to find. You couldn’t make this film without getting a greater sense of Burgundy.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson Klapisch learnt was how similar winemaking is to crafting a movie. “The relationship to time is similar in the two disciplines,” he says. “One has to always be patient. Shooting a film is a bit like a harvest; the editing is like the vinification, it happens in the cellar; and you aspire to ensure the film will age well.”
‘We went to lunch at 11am and the actors drank eight kinds of Burgundy’
ABOVE: The siblings check the new vintage in Back to Burgundy; BELOW: A scene in the vineyard; LEFT: Cédric Klapisch at the Paris premiere of the film, released in France as Ce Qui Nous Lie