Film Reviews

BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE

By • Jan 26th, 2007 •

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Worthy of a franchise.

Nineteen year old Vivian Gandillon (Agnes Bruckner) was rescued in the U.S. by her Romanian relatives when her parents were murdered. Now working as a chocolatier in Bucharest, Vivian is really a she-wolf. In fact, Bucharest is a werewolf-infested city! Living with her aunt (Katja Riemann),Vivian is a member of werewolf aristocracy. Her aunt is one of the leader’s wives; her cousin, Rafe (Brian Dick), is the heir-apparent. Rafe’s father, Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), is ready to take another wife, after all, it’s been seven years without a new one, and according to prophecy, it looks like Vivian is his intended. Sulking Vivian (a) hates being a she-wolf, (b) thinks sexy, powerful Gabriel is a creep, and (c) likes a cute graphic novelist-artist named Aiden Galvin (Hugh Dancy).

Aiden is researching the myth of Bucharest’s “loup garoux.” These shape-shifting humans can become wolves when they smell blood. But they don’t scream in agony as their bodies transform into monstrous AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON werewolves. Bucharest is the last stronghold for these human wolves. Every full moon they gather as a pack to hunt a human – but only a human who has done something wrong – like selling drugs to kids. Gabriel does have standards. Gabriel keeps his pack of wolves together with a tough set of laws. If they keep hunting in a secluded forest as a pack, human authorities cannot find and eliminate them. It’s a good plan, but Rafe and his crew, “The Five,” hate the No. 1 Law.

It is either incest-envy or just plain jealousy, but Rafe is obsessed with Vivian and he and “The Five” are always stalking her. He does not like her relationship with Aiden. (Homoerotic subtext? It would have worked for me.) What if Vivian tells Aiden their secret? Would Rafe prefer Vivian “marry” his father and perhaps breed a male rival to his ascension to the leadership role?

These East European werewolf myths would indeed make a good graphic novel, and Aiden is unknowingly tripping over them in Bucharest. Every little grandma is spitting out fur balls. Vivian cannot tell Aiden about her true identity, but once Rafe comes between them, she has no choice but to choose love or family.

I haven’t read the book BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE is based on, so I do not know how true the movie is to the source material. I’m a huge fan of Martinez, so he gets a pass. I like Dancy and he is interesting here, as well as spoiled Dick. But Bruckner does not have the emotional complexity to give Vivian a viable tortured soul. Bruckner has only one peeved look. Vivian should have at least conveyed to us that being Gabriel’s “consort” was a vile, unholy option. Instead, she likes caste love with Aiden.

Werewolf and vampire movies are always over-acted “Just Snarl & Pose In Leather” performances. Director Katja von Garnier makes great use of medieval Romania and keeps the mythological symbolism minimalist-interesting. I liked the storyline of the werewolves integrating successfully in modern day society and forced to obey rules. If you like the camp dramatics of UNDERWORLD, this will be a letdown. As a fan of all things monstrous – especially lycanthropic and vampiric – I would recommend BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE. If Bruckner takes some acting lessons, and a screenwriter delves into her hungry wolf sexuality, perhaps there is a franchise here.

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