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The international breakthrough of acclaimed filmmaker Claire Dennis, Chocolat is set in a remote town in Cameroon during the last days of France s African colonies. There lives a sole white family Marc Dalens, the often-travelling regional administrator; his wife Aimee, who does her best to stave off frustration and boredom with household activities; and their young daughter France, who cultivates a special friendship with the native servant boy Protee. But the family s ordered world is threatened with chaos when a plane full of strangers makes an emergency landing nearby, its arrival unleashing a torrent of simmering resentments, racism and repressed passions. Special features: Theatrical trailer
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In the film a young woman called France, as in Vive la, returns to the Cameroon where she was raised as a child during the French colonial occupation. Whilst there she recalls her childhood which is shown in flashback. The film later returns to the present day where we follow her departure by plane back to her homeland. A simple enough story, but one that is imbued with such rich obseration and insight as to make it one of the the finest films ever made about the ills of colonialism. The young girls mother Aimee is played by the breathtakingly beautiful Italian actress Giulia Boschi, who is these days a teacher in Chinese medicine and culture. Her beauty is a sad loss to the big screen. Dressed much of the time in spotless colonial white, the film often revolves around the unspoken relationship with her black houseboy Protee, played by Isaach De Banokole. But this is not a film in the tasteless "Mandingo" mould, this is something much more subtle. The relationship, such as it is, merely accentuates the divide between the cultures and the impossibility of this forbidden love. There is one scene where Protee briefly shows the deep love he has for the boss's wife which is very revealing.
Early in the film we see a graveyard at the house where the family live with a number of European names engraved on the weathered wood. The message is clear that white people do not prosper in Africa. France's decent and understanding father Marc, played by Francois Cluzet is a realist when he says "One day they'll chase us out", echoing the future of colonialism around the world. Barbara Kingsolver's book "The Poisonwood Bible", set during the fall of the Belgium Congo, is one of the finest books of this swansong of the exploitive Europeans in Africa. The film contains many memorable scenes accentuating the clash between cultures, like natives trying to play petanque. Racism rears its ugly head in the treatment of the house staff by a visiting coffee planter, and in the general rudeness and disrespect to local culture, by an assortment of Europeans who seemed to take their position as a right. In perhaps the finest scene in the film Marc describes the horizon to France as "a line that is there, but not there", a symbol of the racial boundary that exists in the country. But it is not all serious! There is an extremely funny scene between Aimee and her native cook who speaks English, and whose only recipe consists of rosbif and Yorkshire pudding. A huge arguement takes place with Aimee insisting in typical French passion for something more Gallic. Later when an English guest turns up she has to reluctantly put roast beef and Yorkshire pudding back on the menu.
The French seem to have a special love relationship with desert countries due to their colonial days. This is exemplified in the writings of Antoine de Saint-Exupery who wrote "Wind Sand and Stars". Denis is from the same stock and her preferred location filming in North Cameroon is an absolute delight. What an amazing country. Arid and desolate, with strange mountain formations that defy description, but with a majestic beauty none the less. It is the beguiling Africa that assails all the senses. A black American who has settled in Cameroon tells the grown up France "Go home before you get eaten alive". The message is clear that this is not the natural white mans home, and she is reduced to the level of any other tourist. The closing scene, with some wonderful music is memorable, and sums it all up really. I watched the film with little expectation and was enchanted. Artificial Eye have found a little gem well worthy of a DVD release.
The situation of white people in Africa is the subject of another movie by her. A recent one, White material.
It is very significant to compair these two movies.
The languid pace of life in the former colonial days (for the white people!), the imminent disaster of war and death in parts of nowedays Africa.
Splendidly made. Nice to have it on DVD for you will long to see it again and again to unrevel its secrets.
Beautifully shot bij Agnès Godard.