Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Foreign > Merci Pour Le Chocolat

Merci Pour Le Chocolat (aka Nightcap)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C-     Film: B-



Claude Chabrol continues to produce quality work, even if the American press seems to ignore it, and Merci Pour Le Chocolat (2000, translated roughly as “thanks for the chocolate”) finds him doing a very interesting thing.  The film is a thriller, sort of, but then it is also a melodrama without the exaggeration.  He uses the situation of a newlywed couple Mika & Andre (played by Isabelle Huppert and Jacques Dutronc) as the launching point for a situational examination.


This is centered on the problem with identity.  Who are these people, and do these people getting married really know each other?  The first twist is when an attractive young lady, who happens to be a piano player like Andre, claims to be his daughter!  This does not sit well with the couple, or Mika’s son.  Mika (which may be a play-on-words in-joke on the Swiss chocolate maker Milka) has her own company that makes the popular food, but is she doing something too special with her recipe?  Andre’s last wife died in a mysterious car accident after a visit to Mika’s house.


By not going over the top on the drama or thriller side, Chabrol, in the screenplay co-written by himself and Caroline Eliacheff, try to come up with a hybrid film that tries to produce a new experience that plays against conventions of both genres by keeping things at a low boil at best.  Based on Charlotte Armstrong’s book The Chocolate Cobweb, this different web of another Charlotte comes up with a new kind of point of view story that no one surprisingly has come up with yet.  Whether they were trying to create the mood after eating a good amount of chocolate could actually even be considered.


The 1.66 X 1 letterboxed image is neither anamorphically enhanced, nor is it quite framed correctly.  A sliver of information is missing slightly on each side, so this could bring the image closer to 1.5 X 1ish in aspect ratio, while the PAL transfer offers a slightly over-light and color-funny image.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound plays back well enough when Pro Logic decoding is used, which makes sense, as the credits identify it as Dolby Digital.  That could mean any amount of tracks with the way Dolby throws their name around these days, but this surround especially benefits the many Classical pieces used in the film.


The few extras include the French theatrical trailer, a brief photo gallery, a text introduction by Chabrol, and profiles of Chabrol and his cast.  The most infamous omission in Miss Huppert’s filmography is that of Michael Cimino’s grossly misconstrued epic Heaven’s Gate (1980), despite the fact that it lists all the other great name directors she ever worked with.  It was Cimino who said that Huppert was the next big star, then the mostly cinematically illiterate critics of the time (now they are far worse!!!) insulted and laughed at her.  Well, both Cimino and Huppert can now have the last laugh, as she has come into her own.


Though this is not one of Chabrol’s most important works, it is certainly interesting.  There is probably more that can be done involving chocolate, as proved by two very different films simply called Chocolat proved in being released in the last few years, but this film’s subtlety makes it a unique and mature viewing experience.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com