Claude Chabrol's nervy and nasty little 2001 thriller Merci Pour le Chocolat
is based on Charlotte Armstrong's novel The Chocolate Cobweb
. In Chabrol's hands it becomes a vehicle of considerable power for the unsettling, disturbed qualities of actress Isabelle Huppert, who has been one of his most important muses over the years (their other collaborations include La Cérémonie
and Rien ne va Plus
). Huppert plays Mika, the owner of a Swiss chocolate factory, now married to a world-class concert pianist (Jacques Dutronc) and with a stepson who is obsessive about making the family's drinking chocolate every day. As the clues unravel, it soon becomes clear that Mika is damaged goods. When Dutronc acquires a piano student (Anna Mougalis) in curious circumstances, Mika is forced to escalate her secret agenda. Huppert is fascinating throughout and the film is sinewy and, for the most part, rather clever, evoking shades of Hitchcock and Clouzot. Liszt's Les Funérailles
is the ominous leitmotif, worked on by Dutronc and his protégé, and the Lausanne setting creates an other-worldliness which seems almost sterile. Only at the end does the picture dwindle into an almost Strindbergian inertia as Mika's motivation seems to evaporate in a rather unsatisfactory way. Until then it is spellbinding. --Piers Ford
Claude Chabrol's taut thriller stars Isabelle Huppert as the villainous spider at the centre of an intricate and murderous web of deception. Huppert plays Mika, wife of celebrated pianist Andre Polonski (Jacques Dutronc) and stepmother to his son, Guillaume, whose mother died in a car wreck on his sixth birthday. Their lives are interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Jeanne (Anna Mouglalis), a young woman who has learned that she was almost switched at birth with Guillaume whilst in hospital. Also a pianist, Jeanne harbours a suspicion that she may be Andre's daughter. Andre undertakes to continue her piano tuition, but, on entering the Polonski family, Jeanne begins to notice the icily controlled Mika behaving strangely. Her suspicions aroused, Jeanne begins the dangerous task of unravelling Mika's dark past of secrets and lies...