Food in Film: CHOCOLAT

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When I started this blog, I did intend to cover as many foodie films as possible, going back to movies featuring eating, cooking, dining, and the sensual pleasures of a good meal. But quickly the two entities of Tinsel & Tine became more and more separated except on rare occasions.  Here's an occasion - not written by me, although, I love this film and always intended to highlight it, I'm happy to present this piece on the film Chocolat by freelance writer Elizabeth Eckhart. - Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

Highlighting Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat 

By T&T Blog Contributor Elizabeth Eckhart

If you’re a foodie movie lover who saw Lasse Hallström’s The Hundred Foot Journey (see T&T post), this summer you may be wondering what delicious visual journey might be awaiting you in the theater next. Well, how about a look back at his film Chocolat (2000), which stars French actress Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. Hallström’s has a special talent for turning cooking into a dramatic movie journey.

Chocolat is set in Lansquenet, a small French town, where little has changed for the past 100 years. The residents are strongly religious, and often preached to during church services on the importance of avoiding overindulgence in all things. Vianne Rocher (Binoche) arrives in the town as a mysterious outsider, intent on opening a Chocolaterie filled with luscious candies and tempting treats. Little do the towns people know, Vianne also has an additional talent – not only can she bake, she can infuse her treats with potent spells, which she uses to open the minds and hearts of the rigidly conservative towns people. With their guards, and inhibitions let down, the townspeople begin to enjoy life with a passion that was previously nonexistent. They find themselves acting friendlier, enjoying each other’s company, and even reconnecting with loved ones. Vianne’s chocolate shoppe becomes a common therapeutic stop, with its baker as the leading problem-solver. As each passerby finds themselves unloading their troubles in Vianne’s lap, she quickly whips up a recipe to ease their pain. After consuming her food, each resident somehow, magically, finds the solution to their problem.

Unfortunately, not everyone is enthralled by Vianne’s candies, most notably the Comte de Reynaud (played by Alfred Molina), a wealthy and serious man whose wife has run off to Venice. He insists that Vianne is leading the town astray, into bad morals and sinful activities. Vianne finds herself declared a public enemy, while churchgoers are warned to avoid her shop at all costs. Of course, the film receives an added twist when Johnny Depp’s character Roux, a handsome stranger, arrives to the small town.

The film was the first to showcase Hallström’s understanding of the symbolic nature of food in film. Not only are the bakery and Vianne’s chocolates so visually enjoyable you can almost taste them, the decadent treats also do an excellent job physically representing the desires and small indulgences that the people of Lansquenet often refuse to partake in themselves. Chocolate, of course, stands as a direct metaphor for the liberating powers of giving in and allowing oneself the joys of simple indulgence and pleasure. 

At its core, the film examines many adult themes, such as repression of desires and the importance of self-love, but is fun enough to also engage us on a purely whimsical escape. Often, the film feels a bit like fairy tale, without going too far in that direction, instead Chocolat manages to tread gracefully on the line between serious and sweet, which fits well into its theme of candy and confections. Depp and Binoche’s characters are romantic and engaging, and do well at representing outsiders who merely want to find a home.

The film, which is available online through DirecTV and Amazon Prime, was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was also nominated for a whopping eight BAFTAs, and four Golden Globes. For foodies in particular, this fz,ilm is a must-see!

While You're Here Check Out Elizabeth Eckhart's Past Post

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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