Chocolat – **(*)

Posted: November 9, 2016 in 2016, Drama, Dramedy, France, Historical, XX1/2

Roschdy Zem’s previous movie Bodybuilder was flawed by a boring and non-intriguing story, bad acting and an uneven balance between drama and comedy. Chocolat is quite the opposite. It’s still flawed though, but at least it’s not mediocre. 

The movie title refers to a black entertainer who became quite a succesful artist in Paris during the Belle Epoque, a decade before the outbreak of World War I, when people like Toulouse Lautrec were creating billboards for all kinds of events and Paris hosted world exhibitions showing cultures from all over the world.

The man really existed. His name was Rafael Padilla and he was a former slave from Cuba who ended up working in a French circus and who eventually made it to the main circus theatre of Paris as a clown. So, it’s a true story, which makes it even more intriguing. The first black entertainer in France!

To play the character, Roschdy Zem chose the most popular black actor of the moment: Omar Sy. It’s a good choice, especially if you think about the similarities between both entertainers. They are both really popular, but nobody really takes them seriously. The big difference however, is that ‘Chocolat’ (the artist name of Rafael Padilla) could never prove  that he had some talent as a dramatic actor and Omar Sy makes it very clear: give him a dramatic part and he’ll be even more popular. Equally as good is James Thierréé as the clown who helped Chocolat become so beloved. He’s a mysterious and sad character with doule standards, who intrigues until the very end.

It’s a straight foward chronologically linear biopic which is loosely based on true events. A lot of what you see is fictional and several twists were added for dramatic purposes. But it works. This is not the kind of period piece where all the historical details have to be accurate. It’s a movie about an entertainer that needs to be entertaining. And succeeeds.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4400038

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