Chocolat (1988)
MGM // PG-13 // $19.98 // July 24, 2001
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted August 31, 2001
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
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Recommended
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Chocolat is not a film for everyone. It is distinctly a foreign film and that isn't a bad thing. Foreign films, unlike their American cinematic equivalents, take time in visualizing their subject. Anyone who has watched films by Truffeaut, Fellini or various other foreign filmmakers may find himself or herself bored with the stillness of the images. Again this is not a bad thing. This style of filmmaking allows you to experience the reality of the implied situation. These silences often give you the time to understand the land, the people or the object that is put upon the screen in front of you. Time is necessary to the understanding of Claire Denis' film Chocolat.

Set in West Africa during a time when the French still had active colonies over there. As I stated above, time is essential to the plot, both literally and metaphorically. Denis lingers on the land of Africa. Letting the vastness of it envelop you. It allows the setting to become as important as the people. This is important because the setting directly influences the way the people act.

It's a story of forbidden love and rules that govern society versus the rules that govern the heart. It's not a melodramatic film though, but a real situation looked at through real eyes. You watch the events unfold through the eyes of young France. She is a child that barely knows her father because he is always away. She and her mother share an unconventional relationship with Protee, the houseboy. He is not the atypical slave of the times. He has mentally elevated himself above others and sees himself as more of an equal.

The mother is attracted to Protee, but because of the feelings of the time, cannot act upon her feelings. There is a constant sexual tension around them that they both know they cannot act upon. Their world comes to an unforeseen conclusion when a plane crashes nearby. This forces another group of people into the house and changes the familiar dynamic this small group of people had going. One of the guests makes a pass at the mother, but she refuses. What follows is an exploration of the things people do when frustrated and faced with situations they cannot alter for fear of societal repercussions. It's an all too real look at the way many relations don't always end the way they should.

The DVD:
The Video: Chocolat is presented in it original aspect of 1:66.1 and the print quality is quite good. The sharpness of the images helps with the long views of the African country that are frequent. There is little grain or imperfections noticeable in the film. This is not an anamorphic presentation.

The Audio: A well-presented Mono mix is all that's available in the disc. While sufficient in every way, it's a little flat in places. Those who don't like subtitles will be frustrated with the French only audio track.

Extras: Apart from a theatrical trailer, there are no extras on this disc.

Overall: Chocolat is an extremely well done foreign and one I would recommend to any film buff. I would not recommend it as your first foreign film, as it's a bit dense when compared to others. Don't hesitate to give this a rent one night if you are the least bit intrigued.


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