Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


MERCI POUR LE CHOCOLAT (2000). Director: Claude Chabrol.

If you were the passenger in a car, and the driver, looking sick, said "I'm beginning to feel numb all over," wouldn't you tell them to pull over to the side of the road? Well, this passenger doesn't in one of the dumb, illogical moments in this film made by French filmmaker Chabrol from an old Charlotte Armstrong mystery novel. The plot has to do with "Mika" Muller (Isabelle Huppert), heir to a Swiss chocolate concern, who is fond of serving her own special hot chocolate to her husband, concert pianist Andre Polonski (Jacques Dutronc), and her stepson Gillaume (Rodolphe Pauly), as well as any guests she may have. Into this little household comes aspiring musician Jeanne Pollet (Anna Mouglalis), who thinks that Andre might possibly be her biological father. She also suspects one of the members of the household of being a poisoner. Merci Pour le Chocolat is absorbing and suspenseful for much of its length, but ultimately it heads in a predictable direction and has absolutely no surprises. Worse, Chabrol completely fails to bring out the dramatic potentialities of the storyline and character inter-relationships. The film is so low-key that its characters act like zombies when they should be more than a little upset. This isn't subtlety -- this is just mediocre filmmaking. Those who wrongly compare Chabrol with Hitchcock won't want to use this movie as a case in point. Hitch would never make the fatal mistake of leaving the audience without a punch line and way too many unanswered questions to boot. Chabrol and Huppert also teamed for the slightly better Story of Women in 1988.

Verdict: Have mercy and don't make criminally disappointing movies like this. **.

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