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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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I'm happy to report that this film adaptation of CHOCOLAT is even better than the print version. And how often can one say that with a straight face?
The film begins with a north wind blowing Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) into a small French village at the very beginning of Lent, that pre-Easter period of time, which, in the Catholic liturgy, is dedicated to prayer and physical self-denial. It's not a good time for Vianne, an apparent non-Christian, to open up a chocolate shop across the town square from the church. But, she does so anyway, much to the dismay of the village mayor, the Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Reynaud is puritanically determined to shut the shop down, and Vianne is equally determined to keep it open. An irresistible force meets an immovable object.
CHOCOLAT, both the book and movie, is a whimsical comedy that blossoms as Lent progresses, and Vianne's shop becomes a place of healing and sanctuary for several of the town's troubled residents. Because Vianne's store is seen (by the local Church establishment) as diametrically opposed to the spirit of the season, the story can also be taken as a gentle fable of conflict between Christianity and paganism.
Juliette Binoche is exquisite in her role. (I think I'm in love.) Judi Dench is her usual superb best as Armande, an aged widow deprived of her grandson's company by an over-protective mother, Armande's own daughter (Carrie-Anne Moss). There's also a small role played by Leslie Caron. (Where's she been in recent years?) And Alfred Molina is positively brilliant as the uptight mayor, so dominant that he personally writes the Sunday sermons to be delivered by the local pastor, Fr. Henri, apparently only recently ordained and much in fear of the Comte. Johnny Depp has an engaging role as one member of a band of despised river gypsies just floating through.
One very good reason why CHOCOLAT the film is better than CHOCOLAT the book is the added dimension of visualization which the former imparts to several elements of the storyline, specifically the mysterious wind that blew our heroine into town, Anouk's pet Pantoufle, the delectable chocolates themselves (seductively arrayed in the shop window), and the climax of the conflict between Vianne and the Comte.
CHOCOLAT the film is one that will have the audience leaving the theater feeling good, and maybe wishing for a cup of Vianne's hot chocolate with a pinch of cayenne pepper. I can't recommend this cinematic gem enough.
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on 15 April 2006
What a pity that the film is such a dilution of the richness that is the book. A happy ever after ending and the sacrifice of the darker themes in the book do the the film little justice. Presumably, the replacement of the character of the fanatical and increasingly insane priest, by an autocratic and slightly conservative mayor, is the film-makers' attempt to keep on the right side of the Christian majority. It could have been a truly great film if they had stuck to the story rather than opting for the feelgood factor and slightly insipid romance.

As a film, it's OK, but even the wonderful Johnny Depp can't make it more than just OK. Buy the book instead if you want a real treat for your senses and emotions.
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on 8 January 2002
This film delights all the senses. The beautiful scenery absorbs you, the delightful music enhances the atmosphere and storyline, and you can almost smell and taste the chocolate. It lifts you out of a grey British day and takes you to paradise. If only real life could be this rich!
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on 18 April 2015
An excellent film and also an excellent book to read. Juliette Binoche stars as a Master Choclatier whom, after many travels, arrives at a little place with her young daughter and decides to set up a business. There she has many encounters with the people and meets up with other travellers who arrive in barges amongst whom is the suave Johnny Depp. This is the heroine's story.
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on 1 September 2007
Have not read the book so cannot make any comparisons but have now seen the film twice and enjoyed it even more on the second viewing. If only all narrow minded and bigoted people were that easily converted life would be much easier! The cast seems just perfect to me with everyone having fun in their role. Can imagine that I will be watching it again one day.
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on 1 February 2007
Look what the North wind blew into a small town in France ... a young mother named Vianne and her daughter, Anouk. Vianne rents a shop which opens to the town square where she opens an unique Chocolate shop. The only problem is ... it is Lent. The town is mostly Catholic, they are celebrating Lent by abstaining from certain pleasures, one of which is likely chocolate. Depriving oneself or abstaining from something one loves is a custom or tradition during Lent. Vianne is an outsider, she and her daughter are trying to fit in and be accepted. In a small French town which has a long history with many old traditions and customs, this is a difficult endeavor. This delightful film shows how prejudice and stubborn beliefs can be overcome ... with humor and chocolate. Serious moments arise when vindictiveness and cruelty challenge the main characters spirit and nature, yet in the end understanding and kindness prevail.

The eccentric characters in the film are delightful and funny ... The mayor acts "holier-than-thou" except his secretary Caroline knows the truth ... There may be marriage problems between the mayor and his wife. The wife had gone on an extended vacation to Italy, with no definite date to return. Caroline seems an up-tight and very controlling personality related to her son and her mother who is elderly.Then the viewer discovers, the mother is diabetic and does not monitor her food intake properly which makes her health deteriorate. The mayor learns Vianne is a single mother of which he disapproves. He provides gossip about her to the towns people, influencing them to avoid her shop. However, the mouth-watering treats are a temptation several citizens can not resist. One such person is an elderly gentleman and his dog as they walk by the shop daily. It is the dog that is drawn to the treats . The elderly man wants to court a widow ... Vianne gives him pointers on how to win over his lady love ...

Some gypsies enter the scene as they arrive in house boats and dock on the Thames. From this point forward, the story gets more complicated ... Vianne gets involved romantically with the leader of the gypsies. Vianne provides a home and shelter to an abused wife of a bar owner. The husband of this wife goes to classes to learn how to improve his behavior, he appears contrite and "reformed" but in the end, as they say "a leopard does not lose his spots" and he nearly ruins the lives of many people, nearly killing many by an act of cruelty. The conclusion of the film ties together the serious and humorous aspects of the story in a most creative manner. This film is amusing, charming, and delightful. It has a very satisfying ending. The whole film is a great viewing experience. Erika Borsos (pepper flower)
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on 12 May 2006
I have read both the book and watched the film and I love them both equally. Yes the book does have a richer darker quality but I almost prefer the routes that the characters take in the film. Overall it’s a fabulous film that is beautifully made and acted and well worth a watch!
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on 16 June 2015
Fabulous film - and shows how prejudiced and set in our ways we can become - if only we would open our hearts and minds to alternatives. Highly recommend this film. Have watched it twice already and am planning a girly night in to watch it - with Chocolat of course!!
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on 5 April 2014
This arrived very quickly! Excellent film and superb acting. I had read the book which is captivating and although the film is lovely, parts of it are different from the film. Pantoufle is a rabbit in the book, not a kangaroo and the reasons of some aspects are not depicted in the film, ie the 'special powers' of Vianne and Anouke. I urge anyone who loves the film to read the book. It won't disappoint!
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Every one of the dry-as-a-leaf townsfolk in Mayor Comte De Reynaud's sleepy French hamlet "...knows their place in the scheme of things..." And if they forget their Christian values preached to them weekly in the stone cold church - the good Mayor is there to give the new young priest of 5 weeks (Hugh O'Connor) a helping hand with his sermons - and thereby get 'their' obedient flock back on the moral straight and narrow. Reynaud also waits patently and penitently for his wife to return from one of her interminable 'trips' - watched over his devoted secretary Caroline (the beautiful Carrie Anne Moss). But perhaps the hard-working and essentially decent Mayor (a fabulous turn by England's Alfred Molina) should just chill out and "measure goodness by what we embrace" - or maybe even recognize the lovely Caroline's devotion as genuine and worthy. But the Comte is too busy being pious and upright for the entire town - to engage in something that life-enhancing and delicious...

Besides that's the least of his carnal worries - because a sly wind is blowing in from the North - bringing with it a voluptuous woman of independent-mind (Juliette Binoche) who is going to open a decadent nay sinful chocolate parlour in Lent - a time of abstinence, reflection and tranquillity. And when this shop "Choclataire Maya" opens - Mayor Reynaud knows deep down in his starched flannel trousers that it will seduce the town - especially the women. And the next thing you know - they'll be shagging their husbands senseless again - leaving the drunken abusive ones behind (Peter Stormare as Serge) - cavorting with travelling river people who play guitars and talk in odd Irish accents (Johnny Depp as Roux) and generally enjoying all manner of lurid sensory pleasure. "It's important to now one's enemy..." the Mayor muses ominously.

Adapted from Joanne Harris' beloved novel by Robert Nelson Jacobs - Lasse Hallstrom's feature film (he also did "The Cider House Rules" - see separate review) garnished five Academy Award nominations - including one for Best Movie. And it's easy to see why. It has a magical and very visual story with fantastically strong parts for women. And it has chocolate - lots and lots of sweets, biscuits, cake and chocolate. You can get fat just looking at this film.

The cast is varied and uniformly superb: French acting and dancing legend Leslie Caron is an elderly town lady admired and longed for by Monsieur Bierot (a lovely show by England's John Wood). There's Judy Dench in full-on spiky mode as the ballsy old biddy Armande (nominated for Supporting Actress - her dialogue titles this review) who rents out the former patisserie to Mademoiselle Vianne (Juliet Binoche in luminous form). Vianne's dreamy daughter Anouk (a delightful Victoire Thivisol) plays with an imaginary kangaroo - but is tired of wandering from town to town with her rootless mother - prone to leaving in an instant when the wind tells her to go.

But as mum's culinary skills with South American cocoa and the dark evil liquid begins to affect the town folk in positive ways - especially a broken lady called Josephine (Lena Olin - who is Lasse Hallstrom's wife in real life) - the wandering Vianne senses that perhaps this hamlet is where her roots should be planted. In fact perhaps the town and its earnest but lost Mayor need her. And there's also the added enticement of that handsome rogue the Deppster to deal with - all gypsy and sexy shirts and dishevelled hair and guitars and good with fixing doors and making her daughter happy. Easy to resist that...eh...

Defaulted to Aspect ratio 1.78:1 - the BLU RAY picture fills the entire screen (no bars bottom or top) - but is a strange mixture of the ordinary and exceptional. I suspect in order to give the movie that slightly dreamy feel - there is a soft focus on a lot of it - and subtle grain is ever present. But there are also moments that are truly beautiful when you least expect it - down by the river at night, the feast to celebrate a 70th birthday in the garden, Alfred Molina trying to turn Serge into a gentleman in his home. It doesn't ever look bad - it's just not as stunning as you'd expect such a sensuous film to be.

Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio Surround 5.1 and Subtitles are in English and English For The Hearing Impaired (a poor showing fro such an International film frankly). The Extras feature all the principal actors as well as legendary Hollywood Producer David Brown (Jaws, The Verdict, A Few Good Men).

"Chocolat" is a classy piece of filmmaking - a sensory uplifting watch with passion truffles, cups of chilli-flavoured hot chocolate and Nipples of Venus.

Give it a nibble you sinners...
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