BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Apr 22nd, 2003 •

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First Run Features, 2000
99 mins / Director interview. Photo gallery. Trailer

Sometimes a comedic story idea could make for an emotionally engrossing thriller instead. Such is the case with MERCI POUR LE CHOCOLAT, one of the latest films by France’s longtime master of psychological thrillers – Claude Chabrol. Chabrol turns what would be a situation comedy plot into a compelling thriller about failed relationships. Respected pianist Andre Polonski (Jacques Dutronc) deduces that a maternity ward mishap caused him and his wife, Marie (Isabelle Huppert), a chocolate manufacturer, to raise the wrong child.

Their college age ‘son’, Guillaume, actually belongs to somebody else. Andre’s real child seems to be Jeanne, (Anna Maoglalis) a lovely piano student. Jeanne and her boyfriend, a medical lab intern, are trying to figure out what poison will do some undetected dirty work (Chabrol originally studied to be a pharmacist). Chabrol started his career in the 1950’s co-authoring well respected essays on Alfred Hitchcock with fellow countryman and future director Eric Rohmer. Unlike DePalma with his very obvious “Hey look, what Hitchcock film is my scene copied from?” Chabrol wisely keeps his Hitchcock references to a minimum with subtly-styled camera movements. Instead of celebrating ‘technical innovation’, Chabrol uses his camera to keep us gazing at the film’s characters. He keeps you wondering. Why does Andre, the teacher and Jeanne, the pupil, glance at each other so much as they practice the piano? Was what happened to Guillaume as a child really an accident? Is anything going to happen between Jeanne and Guillaume? Is somebody marked for death by poisoned chocolate? I would be consigned to film reviewer Hell if I gave away MERCI POUR LE CHOCOLAT’s tricky ending. (I will say that Chabrol’s closing shot for his film is a direct take on the closing moments of one of my favorite Hitchcock films – ROPE.)

Although Isabelle Huppert is the film’s most famous cast member, the acting kudos go to young Anna Maoglalis. We don’t know the full story behind her character, Jeanne. This unpredictability prompts us to watch.

Chabrol started his film-making career with self-funded thrillers like LES BONNES FEMMES (1960) and BLUEBEARD (1962). His filmography pulls in a full range, from James Bond styled fare like THE TIGER LIKES FRESH BLOOD (1964) to the award winning domestic thriller VIOLETTE (1979, also starring Isabelle Hubbert). MERCI POUR LE CHOCOLAT is Chabrol’s 48th film.

Directed by Claude Chabrol Produced by Marin Karmitz
Written by Claude Chabrol and Charlotte Armstrong

Isabelle Huppert,
Jacques Dutronc,
Anna Maoglalis

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