plays an enchantress who is also an itinerant chocolate maker. She and her daughter blow
into a staid French village in the 1950s and awaken its residents with
her magic chocolates. Is she a witch, as some believe, or a pagan
priestess? Movie includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp and other non-French
co-stars plus lots of wonderful looking chocolates...cakes, truffles,
hot chocolate with peppers, chocolate almonds and more.
Chocolat begins with
Vianne Rocher and her six-year-old daughter Anouk arriving in the small
village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes--"a blip on the fast road between
Toulouse and Bordeaux"--during the carnival. Three days later, Vianne
opens a luxuriant chocolate shop crammed with the most tempting of
confections and offering a mouth-watering variety of hot chocolate
drinks. It's Lent, the shop is opposite the church, it's open on Sundays
and Francis Reynaud, the austere parish priest, is livid.
One by one the locals succumb to Vianne's concoctions. Harris weaves
their secrets and troubles, their loves and desires, into this, her
third novel, with the lightest touch. Sad, polite Guillaume and his dying
dog. Thieving, beaten-up Joséphine Muscat. Schoolchildren who declare it
"hypercool" when Vianne says they can help eat the window display--a
gingerbread house complete with witch. And Armande, still vigorous in
her eighties, who can see Anouk's "imaginary" rabbit Pantoufle, and
recognises Vianne for who she really is. However, certain villagers--
including Armande's snobby daughter and Joséphine's violent
husband--side with Reynaud. So when Vianne announces a Grand Festival of
Chocolate commencing Easter Sunday, it's all-out war. War between church
and chocolate, between good and evil, between love and dogma.
Herman Hesse's short story Augustus, Chocolat is an utterly
delicious novel, coated in the gentlest of magics, which
proves--indisputably and without preaching--that soft centres are best.
The base structure
of strings and woodwinds that dominate composer Portman's works exists
in full force here. Upon first listen to the score without any knowledge
of the film's plot, the music seems either Italian or Spanish, heavy
with guitar driven Mediterranean performances and an overly melodramatic
Italian theme. Pieces of Chocolat even draw their roots from the
Tuscany portions of Only You. And yet the film takes place in France,
which isn't too much of a leap. The moments of ethnic outbursts
are easily the highlight of the score, delegating them to
traditional guitars and woodwinds rather than her favourite piano.