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In the tranquil French rural village of Lansquenet, which has not experienced nor welcomed change for the past 100 years, travellers Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) Roucher arrive to open a chocolaterie in the local patisserie during the Easter Lent. The chocolate may taste sensational, but it's not to the taste of the Comte de Reynard (Alfred Molina), who wants the townfolk to avoid the chocolaterie's "sinful" temptations. When a boat load of gypsie travellers led by the handsome Roux (Johnny Depp) dock at the town, the Comte organises a boycott of all unholy things in his town, until one local townsfolk (Peter Stormare) takes his orders too far.

Chocolat is a delectable fable that once tasted, will have you coming back for more. It's a delightfully rich film made even more appetising in DVD format. A feature length audio commentary by Executive Producers David Brown and Kit Golden offers insights on the inception of the project, the casting, and the personal involvement of the characters (for instance, Binoche was apparently so obsessed with the process of procuring chocolate that she insisted on taking a two day course at a real French chocolaterie).

This commentary is well supported by the "Making of Chocolat" featurette, where interviews with the film’s main players, plus director Lasse Halstromm, the Executive Producers and screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs provides a well rounded look into how the film came together. Each cheekily discuss the sinful medicinal qualities of the film and its overriding moral that we must never deny ourselves little pleasures.

Interesting tidbits include comments by both Binoche and Olin on the experience of working together again after The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Johnny Depp's admission that he fell in love with Judi Dench during the filming (?). Producer David Brown is likewise berated for this and his other major works, such as The Verdict, Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, The Player and A Few Good Men, but it's fitting that he describes Chocolat as one of his most satisfying films in that it "is beloved by all". Directorial and musical features are also explored in the featurette - both of which set up the opposition of the two main characters - the airy, uncomfortable and unbottled for the free-spirited Vianne and conservative, dark and melancholic for the moralistic Comte.

The DVD likewise explores the fascinating history of chocolate, and a featurette on Costume Design describes how the period of 1959 is captured. Of most interest is the clothing of Josephine Muscat (Olin) whose personal growth is mirrored by her physical change from plain to more free-flowing Bardot-esque style clothes. The seven deleted scenes, however, hold little interest here, and were quite wisely removed. Strangely included trailers for The Wedding Planner and The English Patient are hardly great additions although the Biographies and Filmographies of the main characters are comprehensive.

Best of all, Chocolat on DVD reveals that Johnny Depp actually hates chocolate. Remember that, girls, should you ever rub shoulders with him.
Shannon J. Harvey

Published December 6, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia



STARS: JulietteBinoche, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin,
Carrie-Anne Moss, Peter Stormare
DIRECTOR: Lasse Hallstrom

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: December 5, 2001

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired, Dolby Digital 5.1,
Audio Commentary, The Making of Chocolat featurette, The Costumes of Chocolat featurette, Biographies of Cast and Crew, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer, DVD Previews

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