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Chocolat the Movie - A Delicious, Must-See Confection
Chocolat is a Sensuous, Delicious, Romantic & Magical Confection of a Movie About Living Life to the Fullest!
This terrific movie is one of my favorites, with a wonderful, heartwarming, thought-provoking and inspiring story line that is alternately moving and enchanting. It boasts an amazing cast featuring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Dame Judi Densch, Alfred Molina and Lena Olin as well as handmade chocolates so sinful and magical that they arouse enough passion to solve even serious marital problems! You can't help but fall in love with this sensational film. I've watched it many times and it never fails to delight.
Although the film deals with serious subjects including domestic violence, intolerance and prejudice, it does so in a way that leaves us optimistic as well as appreciative of life's essential pleasures - love, friendship, family, laughter and experiencing life unreservedly through all five of our senses.
Enjoy these sympathetic characters and this wonderful story. Both will touch your heart and soul and leave you smiling.
The Magic of the Movie
Chocolat is a delicious confection of a film, a story of love and life that will engage, delight and enchant you. It's a magical tale of how one woman, Vianne - played by lovely and talented French actress Juliette Binoche - breathes life into a colorless French village whose formidable and rigidly pious mayor believes that all pleasure is immoral.
The Arrival of Vianne and Anouk
Vianne is a beautiful woman with a restless free spirit. She is constantly on the move, wandering throughout Europe "wherever the wind blows" and staying in each place just long enough to breathe emotional life into the local residents before moving on again with her daughter Anouk. Anouk hates the instability of their peripatetic lifestyle and longs for roots and a permanent home of their own. She copes with her unhappiness by talking with or about her imaginary playmate and constant companion, an invisible kangaroo named Pantoufle. As our story begins the wind blows Vianne and Anouk, wrapped in hooded woolen capes that seem inadequate to shield them from the snowy cold of the mountains, into a very small French village one night at the beginning of Lent.
The Extremely Pious Mayer, the Comte de Reynaud, Controls Every Aspect of the Villagers' Lives
The Comte believes that devotion to God, strict moral rectitude and a firm resolve to avoid pleasure form the foundation of a good life and ultimate salvation. He never doubts that the rigid strictures and injunctions he imposes on the villagers are necessary in order to keep them away from the temptation of sinful pleasure and prevent them from straying from the path of piety and morality. He views his role as paternal, strict but benevolent. He has such conviction in the necessity of his pious influence and absolute legislation of morality that he even instructs the new priest, young Père Henri, on what to write for his Sunday sermons. Alfred Molina does a masterful job of portraying the Comte's sincerity and unshakable belief in his responsibility as his village's moral compass.
Vianne Challenges the Comte for the Hearts, Minds and Souls of His Small Community
Everyone fears the judgment and disapproval of their neighbors and, especially, of the mayor. Vianne's determination to reignite the joy and passion for life of the village's residents threatens to destroy the Comte's absolute control and the narrowly-defined accepted behavioral norms he has worked so hard to establish. Vianne essentially declares war on him, openly challenging his moral authority by opening her new shop, La Chocolaterie Maya, across the street from the church and being open for business on Sundays.
Vianne Sets Up Shop Under the Curious and Disapproving Eyes of the Villagers
A Few Villagers Risk Their Neighbors' and the Mayor's Disapproval to Satisfy Their Curiosity About the Vianne's New Chocolate Shop
The Comte, believing his cause to be essentially holy, tries to use his considerable influence to drive Vianne's new Chocolaterie Maya out of business and protect the village's long-standing traditions as well as the souls of the villagers who depend on his moral guidance. But the shop is an intriguing and tempting place, even more so because of the vehemence with which the mayor denounces it and forbids anyone from patronizing it. The villagers can talk of little else, although most refer to it (in public, at least) only to condemn the immorality of its proprietor and warn against the dangers of her decadent enticements.
Gradually the curiosity of a few brave souls overtakes their fear of the mayor's and their neighbors' harsh judgments and they dare to venture inside. Vianne spins an ancient patterned Aztec plate and asks new patrons what they see in the spinning image, the first thing that comes to their minds. Then she uses their answers and her own experience and intuition to identify each patron's emotional challenges and select just the right confection to solve his or her problems.
Is the Magic in the Chocolates or in the Mind?
Whether Vianne actually has this almost mystical ability or just pretends to have it to create a placebo effect is unclear, and ultimately makes no difference. Her ability to make her customers believe in the magical power of the chocolates is all that is needed to create the desired effect. Whether the individuals consume the sensuous confections themselves or give them to the targets of their affection, their belief in the candy's power enables them to create their own magic, getting back in touch with their repressed emotions, reigniting their joy in life's simple pleasures and acting on their feelings instead of only on the Comte's dictates about what is moral vs. immoral behavior.
More Villagers Get the Courage to Visit Vianne's Shop as Word Gets Out About the Miraculous Effects of Her Sweet Treats
When people start noticing how much happier and more energized Vianne's customers have become, one by one the villagers give into temptation and sneak into the shop to find out for themselves what's so special about the owner and her wares. As Vianne prescribes the perfect chocolate for each of them, she gradually helps them recognize that pleasure is not immoral in and of itself and that their habitual guilt is unfounded. Essentially she gives them permission to enjoy themselves.
She brings back the twinkle in the eyes of her crusty, curmudgeonly, eccentric landlady Armande, played brilliantly by Dame Judi Dench, whose daughter Caroline has forbidden her to spend time with her grandson Luc because straight-laced, emotionally repressed Caroline considers her a bad influence. Vianne's wisdom, gentle coaxing and purportedly magical chocolates also transform the lives of most of the village's other residents. She gives hopeless Josephine the courage to stand up to and ultimately leave her abusive husband, Serge. She persuades timid Guillaume Bierot to let go of his decades-old guilt and finally do something about his romantic feelings for the widow Madame Audel (played by the still beautiful Leslie Caron), starting with giving her a gift of some delicious chocolate sea shells.
Does a Romantic Gift of Chocolate Really Work Magic? There's Only One Way to Find Out!
Vianne chose luscious chocolate seashells like these as a gift for Guillaume Bierot to give to Madame Audel as a way to break the ice romantically. Why not give your sweetheart some of these smooth and creamy sweet treats while you're watching the movie together and see what happens?
Tip: Order these when the weather is cool so they don't melt during shipping!
Guillaume Bierot Confesses His "Impure Thoughts" About the Widow Audel to Young Pere Henri
A Band of River Gypsies Brings Out the Ugly, Narrow-Minded Prejudice of Many of the Villagers
Tradition is the hallmark of the village and, as Vianne quickly discovered, outsiders are unwelcome and considered a danger to the community's morality. The band of rivers gypsies who camp out temporarily on the river bank at the outskirts of the village represents everything they fear - freedom, pleasure, joy, lack of rules and restrictions.
A Cautious Flirtation
One of the river gypsies, a musician named Roux, is portrayed with irresistible charm by Johnny Depp. He and Vianne begin a cautious flirtation, as she tries repeatedly to predict his favorite chocolate. Eventually she discovers that it his favorite is not a candy at all, but rather hot chocolate, especially Vianne's decadent, rich, dark recipe spiced with chili pepper.
Vianne Opens Up in More Ways Than One
Vianne has always focused her energy and attention on helping others embrace their feelings and solving their problems. But whether as a cause or a result, she has avoided dealing with her own feelings and emotional struggles, remaining in denial about important issues including Anouk's unhappiness about their wandering lifestyle.
Vianne becomes romantically involved with Roux. While she is visiting him on his floating home, she finally opens up to him and admits that her daughter Anouk hates not having roots and that she herself longs for a real home. This sudden willingness to be emotionally honest and vulnerable leads to the passionate kiss with Roux and their night of shared intimacy on his houseboat.
Which Character in Chocolat Would Win in a Fight?
Chocolat is full of strong-willed characters. Which one do you think would win in a fight?
A Movie That Will Engage Your Mind and Your Heart as Well as Your Senses
Although Chocolat deals with serious subjects including domestic violence, intolerance and prejudice, it does so in a way that leaves us optimistic and grateful for life's essential pleasures — love, friendship, family, laughter and the ability to experience them without reservation through all five of our senses.
Ultimately the Movie Deals with Emotional Honesty With Oneself and Others, and With the Triumph of Love, Respect and Tolerance Over Narrow-Mindedness
While Roux and Vianne make love on his houseboat, an enraged Serge sets fire to another gypsy houseboat in which Josephine and Anouk are sleeping. They are lucky to escape with their lives.
Vianne believes in freedom but has always protected her heart to ensure her own. She is forced to confront her feelings for Roux when he and the other gypsies decide to move on after the fire.
Armande's seemingly cold daughter Caroline is the Comte's efficient assistant who has secretly been in love with him for a long time. He, however, cannot acknowledge his reciprocal feelings for her and remains in staunch denial about the fact that his wife has left him. He insists against all evidence to the contrary that she is merely visiting Venice and will return soon. He believes in his responsibility to set a good example for his constituents by living a life beyond reproach and is terrified and humiliated at the possibility of losing his constituents' esteem if he acknowledged that his wife had left him. So he clings desperately to the fiction, even though he isn't fooling anyone but himself.
Obsessed and determined to prevent Vianne from seducing any more of his flock with her sinfully tempting chocolates, the Comte breaks into her shop while she is out. Intent on destroying all her wares, he starts to smash the large confections displayed in the window. When a shard of the broken chocolate falls on his lips, he finds himself not only unable to resist the temptation but actively shoving as much of the candy into his mouth as he can. When Vianne walks in on the scene, he is mortified, a broken man. She promises to keep the episode a secret and the former enemies develop a grudging respect for one another.
Chocolat Has Won Eight Awards, Including the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and European Film Awards
It also was nominated for 29 additional awards, including 5 Academy Awards, 8 BAFTA Awards, 4 Golden Globe Awards, and many others.
Indulge in a Delicious Taste of Chocolate ... with No Calories!
If you haven't seen Chocolat yet, I hope this review has enticed you to pick up the DVD and enjoy the heartwarming story and compelling performances.
If you have seen it already, consider getting the DVD so you can fall in love with Vianne, Roux, Anouk, Armande, Madame Audel, Monsieur Bierot, and the other villagers all over again!
My husband and I have enjoyed watching this romantic film many times and it never gets old.
I you love this movie, you'll probably also enjoy Like Water for Chocolate, another wonderful film about the powerful connection between food and passion.
© 2007 Margaret Schindel