CHOCOLAT (1988) [Feature]

France (MIFF 2000 , Written on the Skin – The Films of Claire Denis)
Director: Claire Denis

Returning to Cameroon, the West African nation where she spent her childhood, a young Frenchwoman (Mireille Perrier) contemplates her youth, spent within the enclave of a colonial outpost, and the various characters who inhabited this idyll—notably her mother, Aimee; Luc, a visiting ex-Seminarian; and, towering above them all, the family's houseboy, Protee (Isaach De Bankole), from whom she learns something about the intricate nature of relationships within a fundamentally racist society. "tn the willed silences and the kind of sexual suspension maintained between them, Aimee and Protee guard a necessary order and equilibrium. That balance eventally collapses, done in by a fallen priest's killing honesty."— Kathleen Murphy

Raised in Africa herself, Claire Denis' first feature is rife with autobiographical elements, yet she has been careful to distinguish the film from her own experiences. "When (Chocolat) was made, everybody was telling me, 'It's your own story.' I won't say I lied, but it was just so easy to say yes." In fact, the film is more impressionistic than documentary: a meditation on the power of landscape—here, all devouring space and indeterminate borders— and the tainted legacy of colonialism. It remains one of the most effortlessly assured feature debuts of the last 20 years.

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