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Chocolat


Persona
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Not to be confused with the 2000 Lasse Hallström film starring Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina and Johnny Depp, this is the other French Chocolat, Claire Dennis's debut as director in 1988. Starring Isaach De Bankolé, who was Timothy in Manderlay and works extensively with Jim Jarmusch. He's also back with Claire Denis in last year's White Material . Chocolat also stars Giulia Boschi, who seems to have slipped a bit off the radar after this film.

I'll be seeing it later tonight.

I found a great video review, it's Siskel and Ebert together. They both loved it in '89.

And Ebert gave it four stars, his old review is found Here.

We'll see how well time has treated Chocolat.

chocolat.jpg

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Links to Nénette et Boni (1996), Trouble Every Day (2001), Vendredi Soir, or Friday Night (2002), L'Intrus, or The Intruder (2004), 35 rhums, or 35 Shots of Rum (2008, released here in the states in 2009)... and I don't think there is a thread yet for White Material.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Links to Trouble Every Day (2001), Vendredi Soir, or Friday Night (2002), L'Intrus, or The Intruder (2004), 35 rhums, or 35 Shots of Rum (2008, released here in the states in 2009)... and I don't think there is a thread yet for White Material.

Will you have the chance to see White Material soon? I still have not.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I don't think it has actually played outside of a few festivals in the US.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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this is the other French Chocolat...

Heh heh. Think I even saw this. It is in English. I don't think Depp speaks French.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Beautiful film. Reminded me of Out of Africa, which in my mind is a very good thing. Not that Out of Africa is a masterpiece, but it certainly was well told and has survived the test of time as a romance piece. The women always remember it for the shampooing scene alone...

De Bankolé's Protée is definitely the high point here. And at so many points -- his laugh, his cry, his words, his playfulness, his silence.

And the little girl, too. Protée and the little girl play off each other so well, and in the end both of them are understood through a burn, and not through words. While it's the most straight forward Denis I've seen, it's still very quiet, and a burn instead of a fight were a great launching point for the subdued films in her future.

The weird sexual tension in the house that we hear about, well, I'm not sure how weird and sexual it actually is. It's more about survival in my mind, or at least a good combination of both. And later, after it's about survival, a good portion of it deals with those hard, divisive racial tensions. So it's at least a good mix of all tensions that would be involved.

There's an awesome moment of confrontation between some white men when one of them won't let a black doctor treat his very sick wife. It would stand on its own for anyone looking for a scene about racism.

But back to Protée, I just can't get over this character. What a dignified man. He's in a tough situation as house servant to these people. And like Joseph, though not quite as severe, when his man's wife gives in to the sexual tension between them and tries to initiate something, his reaction

in literally standing her up

is representative of a pure, dignified response. In one moment, without words, he reminds her that she is more, that she is better than that.

It reminded me almost of Arcand's Sébastien in The Barbarian Invasions -- we talked at length years ago about how he pushed Nathalie away in the end. Kind of like, "After all that we've seen, after all we've been through, no. This just wouldn't be right."

Something similar happens between Protée and Aimée, and again without words, but with a better action that shows her at once that she is above this. And it didn't feel like the "this" is only a race issue, although I'm certain in this setting it plays a part. The "this" to me, is that they come from worlds that were they ever confused, were certain lines ever crossed (the way one of the whites continually tries to do non-sexually, in every moment that leads up to this), it'd be like that old Undercover song, "The balance of power is all upset and now we're gonig down..." It would rip apart the world for everyone involved. In this setting there might even be bloodshed. Protée sees this, but he sees even deeper than this, and in one physical move reminds her of who she is supposed to be, that this is simply not a good move for her, that she needs to get it together and discipline herself first so that she can keep the respect and hold her good standing in the house.

It's a fun experiment to go back to and it is an excellent film even some twenty years later. But it's also a bit like seeing Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love and then going back to Anderson's Hard Eight. In retrospect, seeing it is more about seeing where things started for the director. It's quite interesting to see where Denis began.

I did see a Claire Denis double feature last night, and I'll post more on Nénette et Boni, which will probably be my favorite of all her films so far.

I have a crappy transfer I grabbed from a VHS if you're interested, though.

I would take you up on that, but I have no more access to tape!

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Beautiful film. Reminded me of Out of Africa, which in my mind is a very good thing. Not that Out of Africa is a masterpiece,

Do not let my wife read that sentiment.

Been a few years since I watched this, but it sticks in my mind has reminding be of Out of Africa as well, but (to keep my wife happy) nowhere near as much a masterpiece.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Beautiful film. Reminded me of Out of Africa, which in my mind is a very good thing. Not that Out of Africa is a masterpiece,

Do not let my wife read that sentiment.

I was trying to be nice to OoA even though it is a chick flick.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 4 years later...
  • 1 year later...

I watched this for the first time last night, and I thought it was a wonderful film about a woman recollecting her childhood in Africa. Denis' handling of the sexual and racial tensions, juxtaposed with the memory of a young girl - somewhat aware of the tension, but unaware of the full implications - beautifully added to the complexity. The shot-(implicit) reverse-shot which effortlessly transports us into France's memories was so effective at connecting the framing story to the rest of the film, and I loved how patient and smooth Denis' camera use was.

 

Since it was also my first Claire Denis film, any suggestions for where to go next with her work?

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Denis is my favorite living filmmaker and the director I've spent the most time watching, thinking about, and writing about over the past decade. "Where to go next with her?" provoked me to rank the films, which is probably a stupid thing to do, but fwiw:

Narrative Features

  1. Beau Travail
  2. 35 Shots of Rum
  3. I Can't Sleep
  4. Friday Night
  5. Nenette and Boni
  6. Bastards
  7. No Fear, No Die
  8. The Intruder
  9. Chocolat
  10. Trouble Every Day
  11. White Material

Documentaries and Shorts

  1. U.S. Go Home
  2. Vers Mathilde
  3. Cinema, de notre temps: Jacques Rivette
  4. Vers Nancy
  5. Voilà l'enchaînement

After you have a few films under your belt, you might want to read MLeary's and my epic conversation about her work. It ends with my more recent interview with her.

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