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CHOCOLAT

SYNOPSIS:
As the North Wind blows through the old, tranquil and morally strict village of Lansquenet it brings with it the nomadic Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victorie Thivisol). Vianne has come to take over a small shop owned by the ageing Armnade (Judi Dench), which she reinvents as a chocolaterie, filled with her seductive hand made confections, inspired by ancient Mayan recipes. The Mayor, a righteous son of the old de Reynaud family (Alfred Molina) takes offence at the libertarian nature of Vianne and her chocolates, which are a threat to the moral fibre of the community. Vianne’s chocolates have a tendency to liberate the repressed feelings of her clientele, including the mistreated wife Josephine Muscat (Lena Olin). But it is another outsider, Roux (Johnny Depp) who awakens Vianne’s own secret desire: to stop traveling and belong.

"There is a thematic link between Chocolat and Pleasantville in the notion of spiritual liberation being equated with sensuality. Both films reproach repressed morality for hiding demons, rather than slaying them. In this regard, the film reflects the power of literature to canvass the eternal truths that humanity likes to explore in the quest for better understanding. It is, of course, a vastly different film in every other respect, fueled by a combination of humour, drama, sensuality and mythology, in a whirling, cinematic essay that is somehow timeless, even though it is a contemporary story. Much of this is due to the choice of a perfect location (Flavigny) and the brilliance of the production design. This element is essential to the film’s mood, creating a successful blend of reality and magic - a fantasy but one anchored in reality enough for us to be involved with the characters and the issues. Lasse Halstrom’s direction achieves everything he intends in delivering us into a special time and place long enough to tell a great story and enthuse us with its central characters. The issues are always in evidence, but only through his characters and always in context. The conflict which gives the film its dramatic tension is not about right and wrong, but about truth and openness against hypocrisy and dogmatism. Yet with Binoche, Dench, Olin, Molina and Depp at his service, Hallstrom creates a confection as sublime and complex as the darkest chocolate spiced with chilli which Vianne’s shop offers its customers. It is not a film of ultra realism, but a film of feelings and characters. Much to enjoy."
Andrew L. Urban

"Chocolat! The word in itself conjures up all kinds of hypnotic images and sensations of luxury, excess, decadence and indulgence. Names like Nipples of Venus that are given to this exotic food of the gods imply fantasy elements, and many of us mere mortals simply sigh and fall to a wan wimper at its mere thought or mention. Let alone a taste! Wicket pleasure indeed! From the very first note of Rachel Portman's enchanting score and the exquisite production design, we know we are in for a magical treat. In the vein of Like Water for Chocolate and Woman on Top, Chocolat is a delightful fable, that takes us into a world where wishes come true and nothing is impossible. As he did so successfully in The Ciderhouse Rules, Lasse Hallstrom has created a dreamy, utopian mood combining a bewitching cast and a captivating script in an adventure we can dream about. The cast has indeed been hand picked, and for once in a film whose origins come from US, the pedigree and accents of the players hold great credibility. Shot in a gorgeous French medieval town of Flavigny in Burgundy, it is refreshing to have a cast whose accents actually fit seamlessly into the mix and the French references are credible. Juliette Binoche lights up the screen with her genuine warmth; her beauty and vivacity are hypnotic. Her Vianne is Mary Poppins for grown ups, and she delights in her knack for knowing everyone's needs and wants. Everyone is excellent – Judi Dench, Lena Olin, Alfred Molina, Carrie-Anne Moss, and what a treat it is to see Leslie Caron back onscreen. Johnny Depp is cool and oh so hot as the riverboat traveller. It's bewitching, it's hypnotic, it's fantasy to satisfy every whim. Delicious in every way, torturing you with pleasure, Chocolat is a treat – a whimsical uplifting fantasy that swirls as surely as an alluring pot of rich, melted chocolate."
Louise Keller

 

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

CHOCOLAT (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Johnny Depp

PRODUCERS: David Brown, Kit Golden, Leslie Holleran

DIRECTOR: Lasse Hallström

SCRIPT: Joanne Harris (novel), Robert Nelson Jacobs (screenplay)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Pratt

EDITOR: Andrew Mondshein

MUSIC: Rachel Portman

PRODUCTION DESIGN:David Gropman

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 15, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: December 5, 2001

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