Marco returns to Paris after his brother-in-law's suicide, where he targets the man his sister believes caused the tragedy - though he is ill-prepared for her secrets as they quickly muddy the waters.
Source: NLA/CAC Prod Co: MK2 Diffusion, Cinémanuel, Cerito Films, SEPT, Caroline Productions, TFI Films Prod: Alain Belmondo, Gérard Crosnier Dir: Claire Denis Scr: Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau Phot: Robert Alazraki Cam Op: Agnès Godard Ed: Claudine Merle, Monica Coleman, Sylvie Quester, Marie-Claire Quin Art Dir: Thierry Flamand Mus: Abdullah Ibrahim Songs performed by Dollar Brand.
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Yes, maybe. It is difficult for me to say for certain because metaphors are sometimes a little unconscious—perhaps, preferably unconscious!
In a way so subtle that some viewers may miss it, the French woman behaves with the visiting male in such a way as to take revenge on Protee, whom she taunts because she cannot embrace.
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That’s interesting because Chocolat tends to bring Aimeé down to the level of France, the child. There is that scene where Protée fights with Luc and then when he comes back into the house, Aimeé is crouched on the floor and she touches him. It is an ambiguous moment because at first it is as if France were on the floor, yet one only realizes it is Amieé when Protée pulls her up …
Protee moves through the compound almost silently, always prompt, always courteous, always tactful. He sees everything. His employer is a French woman in her 30s, attractive, slender, with a few good dresses and the ability to provide a dinner party in West Africa with some of the chic of Paris. She has a workable marriage with her husband, whom she loves after the fashion of a dutiful bourgeoise wife.
The experience of the West Coast of African, or the so-called Central Africa, has nothing really to do with South Africa. Because of the different [European] countries that invaded different parts of Africa, Africa is a country in many pieces. Chocolat has no connection with South Africa, although it touches on the South African experience because of the musician Abdullah Ibrahim. The film has shown in Capetown but I think that has much more to do with Abdullah than anything else.
But when the husband goes away on government business, the silence in the compound seems charged with tension; the man and woman who are left in charge become almost painfully aware of each other.
It is a movie about the rules and conventions of a racist society and how two intelligent adults, one black, one white, use their mutual sexual attraction as a battleground on which, very subtly, to taunt each other. The woman of course has the power; all of French colonial society stands behind her. But the man has the moral authority, as he demonstrates in the movie's most important scene, which is wordless, brief, and final.
Then there was also the fact that these women had nothing to do because they were given nothing to do. They only thing they could do were to dig holes in this dry ground to grow a few vegetables as a hobby. At the start of the film, Aimée has a garden and it is just for fun. She does no cooking, she does no cleaning, and so the second taboo would be that between a mistress and a servant, which is not a cliché for a woman of the 1950s.
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Jean-Pol is a friend of mine. He is not a scriptwriter but playwright, and, no he was never in Africa. I took him there later. I like the idea of working collaboratively even when it’s your original idea. I want someone to talk to, and that is the case even with my next film. It’s great working with someone else.
Chocolat (1988) is the feature debut of French director Claire Denis and the interview that follows was conducted in 1989 for the film’s Australian release. Originally intended for publication in Cinema Papers, the interview remained unpublished until now.
How difficult was it to get Chocolat into production?
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
Luc is a fascinating character because on the one hand he tends to speak the ‘truth’ behind the social façade, especially about Protée wanting Amiée but not daring to cross boundaries. Yet Luc is a colonist in the worst sense.
Because it is difficult to control the financing and production of a film when you have a crew working in a country with no telephones, and where you cannot check the dailies because there are no facilities. These sorts of things frighten people.
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The relationship between a father and daughter is complicated by the arrival of a handsome young man.
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And what about the title, Chocolat? There are moments in the film of people eating chocolate but one suspects it refers to something beyond that?
Claire Denis has come to be recognised as a film maker to reckon with. She is respected for the breadth of her work, her superb vision, and her clean, subtle style. With the release of a boxset of her work exploring attitudes and tensions in colonial Africa, it’s a great time to take a look at her debut feature, Chocolat.
Amidst turmoil and racial conflict in Africa, a French woman fights for her coffee crop, her family and ultimately for her life.
Can you explain further why you think they were afraid?
Chocolat is a 1988 film directed by Claire Denis, about a French family that lives in colonial Cameroon. Marc and Aimée Dalens (François Cluzet and Giulia Boschi) are the parents of France (Cécile Ducasse), a young girl who befriends Protée (Isaach De Bankolé), a Cameroon native who is the family's household servant. The film was entered into the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.
Chocolat Directed by Claire Denis The Film Desk Opens September 18, Film Society of Lincoln Center
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To summarize the film throughout the film whenever the Father Marc leaves on a business trip, there is tension between Protee and France’s Mother Aimee. Since Marc leaves she has to rely on Protee to do all the fatherly duties. For example when she hears Hyenas around the house she calls on Protee to come and watch the room door France and her are in because Marc is not there to do it. Through asking Protee to do all these tasks you can feel sexual tension between Protee and Aimee.
Being a child, you probably have two kinds of memory: there is your own, and then there is a collective memory, which you catch or develop at school, in your community and so on. For instance, I know people who were in Algeria before independence and when they get together they all tell the same stories. I think it’s the same for those people who were in Africa and so I would say that the film is both autobiographical and common to many people.
Chocolat (1988 Reviewed 1989)
A young French woman returns to the vast silence of West Africa to contemplate her childhood days in a colonial outpost in Cameroon. Her strongest memories are of the family's houseboy, Protee - a man of great nobility, intelligence and beauty - and the intricate nature of relationships in a racist society. Written by Dawn M. Barclift
Beautiful Daiga has emigrated from Lithuania to Paris and is looking for a place to stay and work. Theo is a struggling musician, and his brother Camille - a transvestite dancer. One of ... See full summary »
How important to you is the autobiographical element of the film?
I didn’t really consider the scene like that but I understand what you mean; I think it’s a very correct analysis because there was something really very childish in the way a woman like Aimée reacted to her life.
Louis Trebor, a man nearing 70, lives alone with dogs in the forest near the French-Swiss border. He has heart problems, seeks a transplant, and then goes in search of a son sired years ... See full summary »
Rogerrebert.com Review on Chocolat http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/chocolat-1989
That’s interesting what you say because Chocolat has little dialogue and some of it is in riddles and some of the characters also speak in analogies, which is like a private language.
A subtle and captivating portrait of colonial Africa and racial tensions.
Cast: Issach Bankolé, Giulia Boschi, François Cluzet, Jean-Claude Adeline