“To know the Peploes is to love them,” wrote filmmaker Jonathan Demme in a 1988 essay for Interview. “As individuals. As a family, a concept, a chunk of humanity.” The Peploes have been entrenched in the worlds of art and cinema for more than a century. Clotilde “Cloclo” Peploe raised her daughter and son, Clare and Mark, in London’s Belgravia while painting canvases of the cypress-filled coastline of the Cyclades islands. Both children became influential contributors to films by Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-Up, Zabriskie Point, The Passenger) and by Clare’s husband, Bernardo Bertolucci (Novecento, La Luna, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky). Now Mark’s daughter, Lola, is carrying on the Peploe name with her own film, Grandmother’s Footsteps, which focuses on Cloclo.

Lola, 45, bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother, from the corn-silk hair to the warm, regal smile. “As a child, listening to conversations [at] the dinner table were such gifts,” Lola tells me from her home in Paris. “On the other hand, it’s difficult because it makes one feel the pressure [of] finding an artistic niche.”

Young Lola with Cloclo.

That pressure eased when she found voice recordings of her grandmother. “When I heard her stories about how she felt the same insecurities growing up of finding artistic individuality, it was nectar to my ears. I realized I wasn’t alone.”

Premiering today on Arte, the European culture channel, Grandmother’s Footsteps is a meditative study of Cloclo’s adventurous life. Shot in 2018, while Lola was heavily pregnant with her son, the film sees her slip on Cloclo’s leather brogues and travel to the Cyclades islands, where her grandmother spent the last two decades of her life painting, on a spiritual and artistic pilgrimage.

Before the shoot finished, Lola nearly gave birth on the island of Serifos. “It was stormy, and we had to take the last boat back or we would’ve been stuck on the island for two weeks,” she says. “When we boarded, everyone was looking at me with this huge belly as the boat swayed through the storm. I said to myself, ‘If we get through this, he’s going to have some adventure in him.’”

“Everyone was looking at me with this huge belly as the boat swayed through the storm.”

During three years in the editing room and the death of her Uncle Bernardo, in 2018, and Aunt Clare, in 2021, Lola constructed the visual narrative of the film. The shots of Lola contemplating Cloclo secluded in her art studio recall the search for identity accentuated in Antonioni’s The Passenger and Clare’s High Season. “It was unconscious as there was no referencing going on,” says Lola. “If anything, I’ve seen and heard it so much that it’s inside me [and] it’s coming out, whether I like it or not.”

The final film includes shots of Cloclo’s oil paintings, readings of her letters by actress Charlotte Rampling, and rare home-video footage of Mark and a seven-year-old Lola. Walking through Grandmother’s Footsteps is a warm and existential family vacation worth cherishing.

Grandmother’s Footsteps is available for streaming on Arte

David Stewart is a film writer and professor at Emerson College and Plymouth State University