Friday, June 27, 2008

Merci Pour Le Chocolat (2000)

Claude Chabrol's drawing room thrillers are difficult to categorize as they don't fit neatly into any sort of standard genre. Many people seem to be disappointed with them because they're neither as suspenseful as Hitchcock, nor as tightly plotted as a typical murder mystery. This is not so much the fault of Chabrol as a filmmaker, but rather the people charged with marketing the films, who strive for a short-hand comparative description. Yet the Chabrol canon is extraordinarily consistent in terms of style and subject matter. You either like it and buy into it or you don't. Here we have a typical Chabrol upper class family which at first glance is nearly perfect, but over the course of the film we discover deep flaws and unsavory aspects that secretly haunt the lead characters. Isabel Huppert and Jacques Dutronc are completely believable as the couple whose happiness is a micro-thin, easily chipped, veneer. A veneer that Huppert is willing to protect at any, and I do mean any, cost. With Chabrol nothing should be taken at face value, and as the secrets of this family are peeled away, we learn that even the most cold blooded among us occasionally utter cries for help. It’s been said that directors like Chabrol and Eric Rohmer make the same film over and over. As a fan of Chabrol’s style, I say thank goodness.

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