A straightforward docu with a slightly mystical heart, “Back to Normandy” plays like a meticulous personal project on which we are permitted to eavesdrop. In 1975 at age 24, distinguished French documaker Nicolas Philibert (“To Be and To Have,” 2002; “In the Land of the Deaf,” 1993) worked as an assistant director on Rene Allio’s true-crime costumer “I, Pierre Riviere, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister and My Brother….” Young Philibert scoured the countryside for non-pros to play the central roles in 1835-set drama. Thirty years later, he returned to the village in question to interview the civilians who were cast.
Even though venture builds to a touching two-pronged finale, competent result lacks the oomph needed to travel beyond fests and specialized film channels. Philibert speaks with the farmers and others who are all well-adjusted citizens with fond memories of the filmmaking experience. Only then-16-year-old Claude Hebert, who portrayed the memoir-penning title murderer, remains elusive. But Hebert eventually surfaces to pleasant if unremarkable effect. Contempo life in tightly knit rural community includes slaughtering hogs and protesting nuclear waste. Tech credits, including extensive excerpts from the 1975 feature, are fine.