Tonight I went along to see my local Film Society showing of Monsieur Chocolat. I had never heard of it, and didn't know a thing about it, just that clearly it was a French film, and I remember Omar Sy from The Untouchables (which I remember fondly and should watch again). I wasn't too sure about the poster, and was nearly put off going, but am happy that I made the effort particularly after a friend who saw it yesterday encouraged me to go. I'm definitely glad I made the effort to get up off the couch.
Monsieur Chocolat (Chocolat in France) tells the real life story of Chocolat who was the first Afro-Cuban star in France. Beautifully set in fin de siècle France (and Paris, aaah) it is a fascinating look at that time with glimpses of the Lumière Brothers at their work and the brand new Eiffel Tower. Chocolat (at that time working as a charicaturish cannibal Kananga in a rather impoverished provincial circus when he pairs up with Georges Foottit (played by James Thiérrée, Charlie Chaplin's grandson, Georges was in reality George Foottit, an English clown). It seems that the plot takes some liberties with the truth (if Wikipaedia is to be believed, and as always truth is stranger than fiction).
Chocolat finds great fame and wealth, but struggles with the downsides of his fame- the women, the gambling debts, the racism. The racial themes and the discrimination are particularly relevant for the cinema goers of today. There are powerful echoes to the current stories that fill our newsfeeds- a world where kneeling during an anthem is such a divisive controversy and unarmed black Americans are frequently shot by police. (Not that Australia is without racism it just seems to be done bigger and better in America, and we're having our own struggles with marriage equality). Whilst we must view it with our modern eyes it does seem that Chocolat did fight against racial stereotyping and the even more overt racism of his time.
Monsieur Chocolat is well worth a look.
|Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme|
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog