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Not bad movie, this CHOCOLAT. A very classic theme (used again and again) is
portrayed as the old society tackles the changes that come. The theme works
this time around. CHOCOLAT has a very subtle attitude about itself and it
shows throughout the movie when each character "grows." The movie has a
sweet nature as well and we are not talking about anything overly
Lent has arrived in the small French town of Lansquenet. A mother and daughter also arrive too. They set up a chocolate store and captivate nearly everyone since trying something new is a rarity.
Predictable, CHOCOLAT demonstrates the people's desires, bringing out the best in them. Everything that was once behind closed doors is now an open book. The reason: chocolate! For that reason, it makes CHOCOLAT all the more humorous and enjoyable. Some good dialogue stretch out this overlong movie and provides some good entertainment. Things may have constantly changed Lansquenet when it arrived, but CHOCOLAT the movie is a good looking chick flick.
On paper, this film seems to have all the ingredients for a wonderful
ensemble production. Add a dash of Oscar-nominated director (Lasse
Holmstrom), Oscar-nominated lead actress (Juliette Binoche), Oscar-winning
supporting actress (Judi Dench), and Oscar-worthy cast members Alfred Molina
and Johnny Depp, splash in a small village in the French countryside, and
top it off with a novel-turned-script that is pitch perfect. Add it all
together, and what do you have for the final product?
An absolutely wonderful ensemble production.
Chocolat is a well-conceived tale, almost a fable, about a vibrant, free-spirited woman and her daughter who have made a life of traveling from town to town, opening their chocolate parlors and stirring the pot of very traditional townsfolks' ways of life.
The impetus for the changes and stirrings that inevitably occur are Vianne's chocolate delicacies, which represent for these God-fearing folk a sense of decadence some of them have never felt in their lives. Inspiration to follow their passions ensues, and a grand mix of comedy and romance is the ticket to a tremendously entertaining film.
Guaranteed, you will feel good after seeing Chocolat. And you'll probably find yourself heading down to the corner store, stocking your shelves with sweets of your own. Don't worry. It'll be worth it.
Chocolat is a film with a story as richly textured as the confections sold
by Vianne in her Chocolaterie. It is a story of many layers that appears to
be one flavor on the outside, but changes as the confection dissolves in our
psyche. On its face, it is a story about an endless drifter named Vianne
(Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk, who take up residence in a small
French town in the 1950's and open a Chocolate shop right in the middle of
Lent. However, once the initial layer melts away we realize that this is
not a story about Vianne, but really a story about the town and its
Vianne is more of a catalyst to the stories around her than a story unto herself. Ironically, Binoche is a lead actor in a supporting role despite having the camera on her most of the time. If there is one consistent theme that runs through the film it is one of reconciliation. Prior to Vianne's arrival, several of the townspeople had survived in a kind of stasis, with unresolved issues never addressed or confronted. Vianne is the straw that stirs the drink and brings various issues into the open to be examined and resolved.
The film has a strong feminist subtext, which is not objectionable by itself, but too often becomes strident and preachy. Of greater value is the subtle message that provincial ignorance is well served by exposure to new and non-conforming ideas (Vianne and Roux) and that the forces that promote ignorance and conformity out of fear change (Comte de Reynaud) are no match for the power of knowledge and the freedom to exercise it. In this way, the film is very uplifting and relevant despite its folksy telling.
As he did with `The Cider House Rules', Lasse Hallstrom lets the story dominate the screen, bringing us well developed character studies without excessive directorial stylizing. Hallstrom's strength lies in character interpretation and in guiding the actors to broaden and deepen their portrayals. This is clearly evident here.
Juliette Binoche gives a wonderful performance that earned her a best actress nomination from the Academy. Judy Dench continues to make great acting a routine, garnering her third best supporting actress nomination for her role. Lena Olin gives a standout performance as the battered wife struggling to regain her self esteem. Alfred Molina is also excellent as the oppressive mayor trying to pull the strings of the townspeople in a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo.
This is a terrific film with numerous thought provoking subthemes. While it is not a powerful film, it is a substantial film. I rated it 9/10. It is a delight for the thoughtful and intelligent viewer who enjoys a well developed human drama.
I saw the theme as anti-repression, and repression here was the Mayor's
point of view, not the Catholic Church per se which he merely manipulated
forward his agenda. This film is an allegory for intellectual and political
repression of all kinds and shows how easily people can be set against
true nature by a clever propagandist.
Thus, the bogeyman is not the right or the left, but the self enslavement of minds against tolerance.
Once you concentrate on that theme, superbly expressed, the minor implausibilities become trivial.
In our time, the intolerance is called Political Correctness.
Desire naturally brings change. It's never really satisfied, it never settles down for very long.
We see it personified in Anouk and her mother Vianne, always moving from home to home. Everyone in the town is supposed to repudiate desire for Lent, but the conscious effort is artificial, and it's no match for temptation. Vianne can guess everybody's favorite. Except for Roux.
Roux is always on the move too, but he takes his home with him. (Note that "roux" is a shade of red, and Anouk and her mother wear red when arriving and leaving.) But unlike Anouk and her mother, Roux doesn't try to judge his destiny or alter it; he simply adapts to it. Here the river is used as a common metaphor for the inexorable flow of the Tao. And when Roux's boat docks, we begin to see the fusion of eastern and western thought.
It begins with Luc's grandmother. She loves chocolate in spite of its effect on her health, denouncing quiet capitulation as worse than hell. Ultimately, she only finds happiness through acceptance, through adaptation. But ask yourself, what is the fundamental difference between adaptation and capitulation? Either way you can't change your fate.
I believe the difference is ego. When she tells Vianne, "Don't you dare pity me," she reveals she no longer thinks of herself as a victim isolated from the world around her. She has let go of the ego-driven notion of a separate self. And when that happens, there's no one to feel sorry for. In fact, there's nothing left to do but live in the present moment, and enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate.
Vianne is also changing. After the river party, she confides to Roux that she and Anouk hate constantly moving around. She's discovered that experience isn't necessarily better than innocence, but how do you go back? Roux knows, but doesn't say.
Original innocence never lasts forever. In fact, Serge and Josephine illustrate the inevitable schism between blind faith and free will. The funny thing is, God doesn't realize what's going on. (If they're still married in the eyes of God, Josephine argues, then "God must be blind.") Serge's fate presents us with the highly amusing thesis that obedience, not temptation, is the source of original sin. When God discovers that Serge's obedience caused him to burn Roux's ship, he awakens to human nature, realizing that innocence is not the same thing as righteousness. The count evicts him from the village, but it's too late. Choice is necessary to demonstrate good character.
Notice that the count is not merely an authority; he is in fact God himself, on a journey from justice to mercy. (There's a recurring color theme to signify transformation: the river is blue-green, the walls of the chocolaterie are brilliant turquoise, and the statue of the original Count of Reynaud is patinated copper.) Chocolat depicts an imperfect God evolving with man as he begins to understand desire.
Desire feels innate, but Zen suggests judgements and preferences are a product of the ego, and that they disappear when you reclaim your "original mind". We see this happen with Anouk's friend Pantoufle. In French, the word "pantoufle" has a slang meaning: a high-level administrator who leaves his post. For Anouk, he represents the uppermost level of human intelligence -- the conscious self. Pantoufle is of course imaginary, but she believes he's real. Notice that when Roux returns to stay, Pantoufle vanishes.
Her mother wasn't sorry to see him go. After all, the ego is the source of anger, envy, and human suffering. And when it disappears, it naturally brings peace. Christianity calls it salvation; Buddhism calls it enlightenment. It's at this point that Vianne finally guesses Roux's favorite: ordinary hot chocolate. And she does it without trying.
As much as you enjoy temptation, don't you wish you could trade your experience for innocence again?
Another unique period piece from masterful director, Lasse Holstrom, Chocolat is indeed onje of a kind. Holstrom blends equal amounts of comedy and drama with amazing skill and an international cast to match. But all this could not have been made possible if it wasn't for the screenwriters, who have really excelled themselves on this one! A classic! A must see for everyone who'd rather watch the smart little movie than the big violent piece of garbage that has no particular storyline.
i just wanted to say that i think Chocolat is one of the best movies i have ever seen. i liked it a lot.
my friend and I went to the cinema to see it and afterwards we were very happy.
Somewhere in France, 1959. Vianne and her little daughter
come to a little town to open a chocolate-shop. It´s during
the lent - a scandal! The mayor is shocked! But the people
don´t mind about it. They fall for the lust of chocolate...
"Chocolat" is really a LIGHT comedy - no comparison to Lasse Hallstroems recent work "The cider house rules"! Rachel Portmans music is wonderful as ever and it´s beautiful photographed. But I guess "Chocolat" was a little bit TOO light for an Oscar-winner. There was one thing, that bothered me sometimes, though there were great actors - Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Lena Olin, Alfred Molina, even Johnny Depp isn´t that bad as everybody says - but the characters look a little stereotypic: the lusty old widow, the old gentleman with the dog, the sick grandmother... They´re looking as if I´ve seen them in thousand other movies before - sympathetic and lovable, but cliched. But besides this, I really enjoyed the film. I left the theater with a warm smile on my face...
A delightful, beautiful fairy-tale.
"Chocolat" isn't as much about confection as it is about convention, and
though some rigid types might see its message as blasphemy, it's far too
gentle and playful to be taken as anything more than a sweet aside in the
arena of moral battle.
Juliette Binoche's character is revealed to be at least as flawed as the townspeople she thumbs her nose at with her chocolaterie, and this adds considerable weight to a story that otherwise works just fine as a fable.
Judy Dench delves into a little MacLaine-ish crotchetiness, but her reaction to her grandson's portrait of her is full of the brilliance one expects from her.
Far from an indictment of the Christian ethic, "Chocolat" is a measured reminder of what humanity is about in the end: love, fulfillment, enjoyment.
Rating: 7 of 10
A very good drama about a young single mother moving to a french town with her daughter. Then she open a chocolate shop but the town mayor doesn't approve. Johnny Deep is a very handsome guy in this movie. The characters are very realistic, and the movie came just in time for Easter.
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