An Italian family in search of a better life comes to join the father, a miner in the Borinage (Belgium). They arrive as someone else is about to leave: Domenico, another Italian miner. After 17 years down the mine, he longs to return to his village now that there is less and less work. Poetically and expertly, Meyer films not only the misery and poverty of miners’ families but also their moments of joy: children's first day at school, festive Sundays, games on the slag heaps...
Representative of Belgian social cinema both by its contents and its fate, the film From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom (Déjà s'envole la fleur maigre in French, the title being inspired by a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo) is undoubtedly Paul Meyer’s crowning achievement. Undeservedly unseen for a number of decades, this film has been returned to its former glory thanks to restoration by the Royal Film Archive of Belgium.
“Despite a flood of prizes on the festival circuit, the Belgian release of From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom lasted a matter of days. Meyer’s revenge came in 1994, when a Parisian distributor relaunched the film to unanimous applause. The consignment to over 30 years of obscurity of a major film in Belgian cinema is one of the greatest injustices of its entire history. This space is insufficient to celebrate so many sequences: the arrival of an Italian family on the same day as the return of an aged immigrant; the initiation of an apprentice to the ways of the mine, the local celebrations, a hubbub of different languages. And the whole, a poignant, beautiful neorealism set against the backdrop of the coal tips and eroded landscapes of a suffocating Borinage.”