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Merci pour le Chocolat (Nightcap)

Claude Chabrol

Claude Chabrol’s 52nd film takes him into the malevolent heart of the bourgeois family – a place he has etched his name many times in an illustrious career. An appropriate winner of the prestigious PrixLouis-Delluc, this is an ironic low-key study of perversity boasting a classic performance by the splendid Huppert as a moral monster, equal parts victim and femme fatale, in this, her sixth film for the master. She stars as Mika Muller, chief of a Swiss chocolate company and second wife of concert pianist Andre Polonski (Jacques Dutronc), whom she marries several years after their early, brief union. The seemingly smooth surface of their elegant life is disturbed by the appearance of eighteen year old Jeanne (Mouglalis), a gifted pianist who may have been mixed up with Polonski’s idle son Guillaume (Pauly) at the clinic where they were born. Memories of the boy’s mother return and Mika’s undetected role in their family tragedy comes back to haunt them. With a nod to Lang and Renoir, Chabrol explores mistaken paternity, using chemistry and chocolate to create a feast for the senses and a numbing of the conscience. A plentiful air of foreboding is supplied by Liszt’s ‘Funerailles’ as Mika attempts to make history repeat itself, wielding a flask of her fermenting nightcap like a deadly weapon. Plot holes abound in this delectable diversion but its deceptively light atmosphere and the chill air of uncertainty make this a delightfully mature addition to the canon.
France, 2000.
Colour.
Dolby digital stereo.
99 mins.

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