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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 7 Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer - The Wedding Planner, The English Patient
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director Lasse Hallstrom plus producers David Brown, Kit Golden & Leslie Holleran
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Costumes of Chocolat
  • Animated menus
  • Awards/Nominations - The Pleasures of Chocolat

Chocolat

Miramax/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 117 mins . M . PAL

  Feature
Contract

No matter how you say it or spell it - chocolate, chocolat, choklad, coklat, chocolade, chokore-to, chocola, cioccolato, chokolade, suklaa, schokolad, sjokolade, shokora, schokolade, chocky, manna from heaven - it all means one thing, sheer yumminess. So a film taking the name Chocolat certainly has a lot to live up to...

Now let's see - we have a classy director, Lasse Hallstrom, responsible for such classics as My Life As a Dog and ABBA: The Movie (whoever just laughed go and stand in the corner heathen, right now!) We also have an adaptation of Joanne Harris' fabulous novel of the same name that does take a few liberties here and there. Finally we have a simply incredible ensemble cast - the divine Juliette Binoche, the incredible Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Leslie Caron, Carrie Anne Moss and more. So what's it all about then?

One winter's day in 1959, a sly northern wind accompanies two visitors to a rather drab and quiet French village. This little countryside town was one of abstinence, penitence and mundane tranquillity, until the arrival of these two Little Red Riding Hood-like figures - the free-spirited Vianne and her young daughter Anouk - bringing with them a splash of colour and temptations to ignite hitherto unexplored passions.

Renting an old patisserie from Armande Voizin, a crotchety and potty-mouthed - but refreshingly frank - old woman, Vianne sets about converting it into the Chocolaterie Maya, an outlet for her delicious cocoa-based treats. Amidst the abstaining period of lent, the rather devout mayor, le Comte de Reynaud, is none too impressed with this tantalising invasion, and sets about a campaign to discredit this radical bad influence, or Satan's helper, by near any means possible. Not everybody supports him, however, and Vianne finds herself gradually winning over the townsfolk with her almost magical ways.

"I have a knack for guessing peoples' favourites. These are your favourites."

Bookend narrated much like a fairytale by a grown-up Anouk, Chocolat manages to deftly weave the tales of many of the village's inhabitants into one neat, captivating and beguiling story. There just isnít any point in giving much more away than what's mentioned above, as this film is much better left to be like one of those assortment boxes of chockies that you grab at wildly in the dark, never knowing what pleasant surprise you'll end up with.

  Video
Contract

Chocolat oozes onto our screens in an almost-the-same-as-the-cinema ratio of 1.78:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. Generally the vision has a delightful sumptuousness to it, it's fairly sharp, but not razor sharp - possessing a certain pleasant, slightly soft texture that fits the story superbly - much of which is due to the production design. Colour is an integral part of the story - the town and its inhabitants are generally all rather dull and drab, until Vianne and her wardrobe appear and things brighten up considerably, with no over-saturation or bleeding problems (well, the latter does apply to a nose at one point, but that's not an issue with the transfer). Shadow detail is more than adequate in those scenes where it becomes relevant.

There aren't really any majorly icky nuts to spoil its taste, save for some fairly rare small white specks every so often, and a couple of very minor shimmery effects cropping up on occasions. The only crunchy frog in the assortment is the layer change - an absolute clunker which would have to go down in history as one of the more noticeable ones, occurring abruptly right at one of the loudest points in the film.

  Audio
Contract

The 5.1 mix that accompanies Chocolat is quite superb, in no small part due to the music - which we'll get to in a moment. Movies such as this generally donít call surround set-ups into much in the way of aural excitement, however here they are used here to subtly bolster the score and a few incidental effects, and the subwoofwoof gets to do its stuff valiantly on the rare occasions it is called for. Dialogue is synched perfectly and is crystal clear throughout, with the various soft French accents posing little problems in the understanding department.

Now - that music. Rachel Portman has composed a simply magical score, with particularly discernable themes popping up for various characters throughout. Much use is made of rather haunting flute melodies and solo strings in the more traditional, classical-styled arrangements, and then things jump into almost whimsical territory with some quite spirited, Latin-influenced works.

  Extras
Contract

As generally expected from such a release, the main menu is subtly animated with some of the gentler score playing along. A reasonable assortment of extras should have most people satiatedÖ

Audio commentary - director Lasse Hallstrom plus producers David Brown, Kit Golden and Leslie Holleran: As commentaries go, this falls somewhere in the middle ground between boring and riveting. There isnít too much in the way of silence, and some very interesting things are here to be learned about the many gorgeous locations used, casting decisions and even the computer effects utilised (they're EVERYWHERE nowadays!). Hallestrom tends to get less time than possibly some would like, as the producers definitely win out in the gift of the gab stakes here.

Documentary - The Pleasures of Chocolat: At almost 26 and one half minutes in length, refreshingly this full frame feature is much more than simply another plug-the-film love-in. It has the regular stuff - film snippets, behind the scenes footage, interviews with most all of the cast, producers, the director and sundry other behind the scenes folk - but unlike so many of these presentations this one contains some interesting information. As well as all the movie stuff there's a slightly off the subject look at producer David Brown's life's work, and a brief peek inside the story of the wonderful confectionery the film takes its title from.

Featurette - The Costumes of Chocolat: A brief, but definitely interesting if for the wonderful fashion sketches alone, special concentrating on what at first glance may seem rather run of the mill adornments that feature in the film. The 4:10 includes interview footage with costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus, where she explains about the research that went into recreating the dress of the period, and their aim for simplicity in the designs.

Deleted scenes: A selection of seven fairly brief snips in non-anamorphic 1.78:1 - Are we going to move again?; Hair today, gone tomorrow (this is actually a differently coiffured take on a scene featuring Johnny Depp that made the final cut); Comte collects rent; Armande's letter; Milking the cow; Boule game and Cat food. Video quality is reasonable; however sadly there is no commentary or any other form of explanation as to why these scenes were excised - with one featuring Judi Dench in a way being quite touching. Most of them do have leading and/or trailing snippets that indicate where they were removed from the film, which is a handy inclusion.

Biographies: Nicely chubby bios on Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and director Hallestrom, there's much information here that is actually interesting, as well as some fairly thorough reverse-chronology filmographies.

Previews: A 2:32 minute trailer for the completely irrelevant The Wedding Planner in non-anamorphic 1.78:1 and a 2:33 preview of The English Patient, which is at least vaguely relevant in that it features Juliette Binoche. Video quality is fine in the first instance, however the second one is nothing short of abysmal.

Theatrical trailer: This 2:07 minute trailer is presented in full frame, and has simple Dolby Digital Stereo sound. It's quite clean and advertises the film well without revealing any dreadful spoilers. It isnít in the film, but it's worth noting that this includes a snippet from the song Tonight and the Rest of My Life by Nina Gordon (once of Veruca Salt), which was easily one of most gorgeous songs released in 2000.

Dolby Digital trailer: The boring old space epic-styled one.

  Overall  
Contract

To dismiss Chocolat as simply an art film, or heaven forbid a "chick flick", is to do it - and indeed yourself - a great disservice. It is an often heart warming, always entertaining and subtly humorous dramatic tale not a million miles away from the likes of The Princess Bride in spirit, and hey - it even has pirates!

The disc gives us near-pristine vision and a scrummy 5.1 soundtrack, and a decent enough serve of extras to provide very good value.

Whilst not as necessary to sustain life as its edible namesake, Chocolat really is a special treat all of its own, and very much worth taking the time to savour. Yummy!


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      And I quote...
    "A special treat all of its own, and very much worth taking the time to savour..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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