Merci Pour le Chocolat

Director: Claude Chabrol

Claude Chabrol is no stranger to mysteries and the suspenseful inner lives of seemingly ordinary people-- he’s fascinated by secrecy and betrayal and haunted by the past. In his forty-eighth feature film, Isabelle Huppert (who by now has cornered the market on playing scary, perverse dames) plays a Swiss chocolate manufacturing heiress whose marriage to pianist Andre and idle life in the countryside with her slacker stepson is interrupted by the arrival of another young woman who may indeed be her husband’s daughter after a hospital mix-up. The fact that the woman is a pianist and has an eerie resemblance to Andre’s former deceased wife is enough to keep viewer’s interests in check after an admittedly confusing and badly produced introduction at the wedding when several characters and conversations occur simultaneously. Instead of being an homage to Altman, all of this rapid fire overlapping information gets lost in the shuffle after the credits which finds us being introduced to four new and seemingly unrelated characters. However, stay with the film as it does begin to all come together and earlier confusion gets cleared up by careful plotting and performances, especially in flashbacks and visual repetitions echoed in dialogue (although you may find yourself watching the opening a second time after it’s over). The film clocks in at roughly an hour and a half and the time flies by as situations grow more tense. Note: while the ending is purely and creepily quintessential Chabrol and quite haunting, it does lack a certain closure that will frustrate some American audiences as it respects our intelligence enough to force us to fill in the blanks and leap to a definite conclusion on our own.