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In Lausanne, the aspirant pianist Jeanne Pollet has lunch with her mother Louise Pollet, her boyfriend Axel and his mother. Lenna leans that when she was born, a nurse had mistakenly told to the prominent pianist André Polonski that she would be his daughter. André has just remarried his first wife, the heiress of a Swiss chocolate factory Marie-Claire "Mika" Muller and they live in Lausanne with André's son Guillaume Polonski. Out of the blue, Jeanne visits André and he offers to give piano classes to help her in her examination. Jeanne becomes closer to André and sooner she discovers that Mika might be drugging her stepson with Rohypnol. Further, she might have killed his second wife Lisbeth. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At the time this movie was shot, the house was owned by David Bowie who was trying to sell it. See more »
(at around 40 mins) When Mika is talking to Dr. Pollet in the hospital, two crew members feet and a cable (possibly the boom mic's cable) are visible moving - reflected on the side of table. This shot lasts for approx 50 seconds like this. See more »
It's a thriller, suspenseful, yet not pushy in its pace. The plot progression edges on at its own natural tempo, with piano recitals punctuating the interludes while, yes, we worry about Mika Muller (Huppert's character) - whatever might she be up to in spite of her ever so charming and outwardly friendly disposition, or is she?
In a way, it's a (light) psychological murder drama, and we kinda know the seed of evil is with Huppert's character. The trailer and the advertising synopsis suggested that obvious clue. But somehow, it didn't decrease the level of suspense. Huppert again exercises her art of subtle acting - that nonchalant facial expression that hardly flinches or betrays her suppressed inner conflicting feelings behind the mask of well-groomed outfits and demeanor.
For the most part, we follow the interaction between the other characters (good supporting cast): Mika's husband André Polonski (Jacques Dutronc) the famous pianist, the sluggish step-son Guillaume (Rodolphe Pauly) whom Polonski wants to cherish but has not the time to understand the growing teenager - whose mother, Polonski's beloved wife Lisbeth, died in a car accident years ago, and Jeanne Pollet (Anna Mouglalis) the newly introduced excitement in Polonski's life - a protégée eager to win a piano competition, and Jeanne's widowed mother Dr. Pollet (Brigitte Catillon) who heads the crime lab. Jeanne is an intelligent young woman besides being a talented pianist with potential, and we led to believe her suspicion about Mika and her serving of hot chocolate nightcaps to the Polonski's.
Chabrol's writing and directing style never thrust obvious murderous threads in front of us. There are no actual blood or acts of violence we see. Everything seems so civil. Clues are suggestive through conversational exchange between the characters and outside of the frames. That's the masterful beauty of a Claude Chabrol piece - exquisitely presented and delightful to enjoy at ease.
The notion of serving up possibly 'poisoned' hot chocolate does remind one of Hitchcock's 1941 "Suspicion" with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine, including a similar driving scene yet outcome reveals off camera cleverly through a conversation.
Lately, Huppert's taken on roles that are, perhaps, psychologically in need of TLC (tender loving care): here in "Merci pour le chocolat", in Haneke's "The Piano Teacher", and in Ozon's who dunnit musical "8 Women" - she actually gets to have the most changes of outfit (3) than the other 7 actresses, besides performing her number in 'talk through' style sitting down at the piano vs. dancing around singing the song. She's having fun in portraying such characters, no doubt.
If you enjoy foreign movies, a French thriller drama with subtitles by Ian Burley (who did the wonderful translated subtitles to the Italian film "Bread and Tulips"), "Merci pour le chocolat" is for you. Enjoy!
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