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Archive: Spring 2005


Set largely in the West African colony of Cameroon in the 1950s, Chocolat is a lush, if enigmatic, portrait of the colonial experience. In the waning days of French rule, a district officer presides over a rural outpost, living quietly with his wife, Aimee, and little daughter, France. One day the officer is called away on business, leaving Aimee and France to fend for themselves, with the aid of their houseboy, Protee. A hushed drama of racial and sexual tension soon builds between Protee and Aimee, illuminating the perversion of human dynamics that colonialism breeds. —All Movie Guide

Chocolat shies away from explicit or didactic commentary. Denis would rather “show” and allow audiences to understand what she has subtly revealed. In a way, she relies on historical residues implicit in what she shows; she hopes historical traces in the consciousness of audiences will allow her sometimes unconventional meanings to emerge.

With the recent arrival of L’Intrus (The Intruder) (2004), Denis has directed 17 films, segments of films or TV programmes. In an interview with me in 2000, she noted that it’s by chance that Chocolat (1988) is her first film. She had been working as Second Unit Director or Assistant Director on films by Wim Wenders, Costa Gavras and Jim Jarmusch among others for more than 10 years when she finally got an opportunity to direct Chocolat. —Ann Kaplan

The film is part of Globalization, Language, and Human Rights presented by the International Center for Writing and Translation (ICWT) in association with the Humanities Institute at SUNY Stony Brook.

Directed by Claire Denis • 1988 • France/West Germany/Cameroon • 105 minutes, 35mm, in French w/ English subtitles

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