17 March 2007

Chocolat (starring Juliette Binoche)

In recent years, I've realised that while adaptations of book on film are often disappointing, they can nonetheless, if well-cast, offer a depth of understanding that is somehow more rounded than the individual impression one gets from a book alone. In addition, movie versions allow me to introduce my husband to stories I have enjoyed which he is unlikely to read.

I had slightly mixed feelings about the book 'Chocolat' by Joanne Harris, which I read a little over a year ago. But, with the small French village location, I thought it could make a good film. Reviews were good, so it went on my wishlist.

The story is similar to that of the book. Juliette Binoche stars as Vianne, which she does in a believable way. Judi Dench is superb as the elderly Armande, estranged from her uptight - and upright - daughter. Johnny Depp makes a wonderful, passionate Roux. The photography is indeed good, and the scenes were set far better in my mind than they had been while reading the book.

The antagonism of the townfolk to this carefree, sensual chocolate-maker is well done, contrasting their rigid style of traditional Christianity with the freedom and luxury that Vianne tries to introduce. In the book, the priest is the most vehemently outspoken against Vianne, the 'bad guy', whereas in the film it's the mayor who is the most unpleasant character; I have to admit that I preferred that; I don't think the book was meant to be anti-Christian, but against rigidity and refusal to acknowledge the joy of life.

Other than that one change for the better, the film kept pretty close to the book, as far as can be done, and we both enjoyed it. The 12 rating (or PG-13 in the US) is probably about right, since there is some sensuality and violence, though nothing too explicit or gory.

Recommended for adults and older teens.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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