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Merci pour le chocolat, June 24

Isabelle Huppert: Passion and Contradiction

Saturday, June 24, 2006
6:30 p.m. Merci pour le chocolat
Claude Chabrol (France/Switzerland, 2000)

(a.k.a. Nightcap). Chocolate corrupts; dark chocolate corrupts absolutely. Swiss chocolate heiress Mika (Huppert) dispenses the stuff along with charity and love for her brilliant, distracted pianist husband André (Jacques Dutronc) and his son. When a young pianist comes into their home playing Liszt's Funérailles and hinting she might be André's daughter, the brown stuff really starts to spill. That Chabrol and Huppert can pull off these expertly crafted psychological thrillers with seeming ease doesn't lessen our pleasure in them (note how deftly Chabrol conveys a family's complicated history in the opening scene). Why shouldn't our era have its own genre standards as past generations had—and our own Garbo, Dietrich, and Davis we can rely on to "do that thing," beautifully? Huppert's thing is to evoke doubt the moment she appears on the screen. In league with cinematographer Renato Berta (his talent is mesmerizing), she lets us know we need to watch carefully her placid freckled face; watch for the flicker of emotion.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Caroline Eliacheff, Chabrol, from the novel The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong. Photographed by Renato Berta. With Isabelle Huppert, Jacques Dutronc, Anna Mouglalis, Rodolphe Pauly. (99 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Empire Pictures)