New 35mm print! Claire Denis’s semi-autobiographical debut film, Chocolat, tells in flashback the story of a family in Cameroon during the waning days of colonialism in West Africa. The characters—France, a young girl; her best friend, the black house servant Protée; her mother, Aimée; and her father, Marc—have a symbiotic existence, despite the strictures and social boundaries that exist between the native Africans and France’s family. When a plane crashes nearby and strangers enter their household, the tensions between the family and their neighbors expand into devastating territory, especially for Aimée and Protée, whose forbidden, mutual desires have up until now retained an unspoken balance. With Denis’s trademark atmospheric silence and emotionally charged images, Chocolat remains one of her most profoundly absorbing films.
“Chocolat is one of those rare films with an entirely mature, adult sensibility; it is made with the complexity and subtlety of a great short story, and it assumes an audience can understand that a strong flow of sex can exist between two people who barely even touch each other. . . . It is about how racism can prevent two people from looking each other straight in the eyes, and how they punish each other for the pain that causes them. This is one of the best films of the year.” – Roger Ebert