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Chocolat

France/West Germany/Cameroon 1998. Dir: Claire Denis. 105 min. 35mm

Claire Denis’s evocative debut feature brought her to international attention when it premiered at Cannes in 1988. Denis spent her childhood as a French colonial in West Africa, where her father was stationed. The semi-autobiographical Chocolat is structured as the memories of a woman who, as a young girl in the 1950s, lived with her family in French Cameroon. The film focuses on the relationship between eight-year-old France (Cécile Ducasse) and the family’s Cameroonian “houseboy” Protée (Isaach De Bankolé) — and on the sexual tension simmering between Protée and France’s mother Aimée (Giulia Boschi). The delicate balance of the household is upset by the arrival of a group of strangers, stranded by a nearby plane crash. The themes of this intimate, intricately observed work — race, class, sex, desire, eroticism, colonialism, family, “Otherness” — have become signature Claire Denis concerns. The score is by South Africa’s Abdullah Ibrahim. Print courtesy of TIFF Film Reference Library.


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REVIEWS

"Serene, sophisticated beauty ... An elegant, perfectly poised character study."

Little White Lies | full review

"Sensual and illuminating ... Few auteurs of the past 30 years have been able to match Denis’s gifts at distilling mood and atmosphere."

Village Voice | full review