Monsieur Chocolat was a hit at the recent French Film Festival and it was there I saw it for the first time. It was my son’s choice and I had no idea what to expect but we both loved it. I came out thinking what a wonderful story it told – with beautiful cinematography and an electric performance from Omar Sy who plays Chocolat. It was so good I’d actually forgotten I was reading sub-titles for most of the film. On my recent trip to Paris I pointed out places from the movie to my husband and told him the story of Chocolat and George Footit, the first multi- racial clown team in France. They were a sensation during the Belle Époque. I was excited when invited along with Nanny Babe and some of our lucky readers to see this mesmerising film again.
About Monsieur Chocolat
Monsieur Chocolat tells the story of Chocolat the clown, the first black stage performer in France’s history. It begins with Chocolat performing as the feared cannibal Kalanka in Devereaux’s travelling circus.
Down on his luck clown Footit arrives at the circus looking for work but is told his sort of clowning is no longer relevant. He needs a new act, something bold and exciting. Seeing Kalanka’s natural ability he proposes they work together as a team. Footit and Chocolat is born. They become a sensation when they are enticed to Paris by the Noveau Circus. The pair quickly become Belle Époque darlings.
Footit’s serious and melancholy side is a perfect foil for Chocolat who gambles, is showy and has an eye for the ladies, firstly with Camille from Devereaux’s circus and then with the delightful ladies of Paris who fawn over him. Eventually making easy money, gambling and discrimination take their toll on Footit and Chocolat’s friendship. Chocolat marries sympathetic and loyal nurse-Marie Hecquet (Clotilde Hesme) and they suffer the discrimination of an interracial marriage, frowned upon at this time in history.
Nanny Babe found the film to be, “very deep, emotional, sad and enlightening all in one.”
Monsieur Chocolat is the story of an exceptional artist who struggled for respect and equality, but who ultimately found true love in a changing world.
Omar Sy (Intouchables) is mesmerising in every scene. The camera loves him. He makes you feel deeply for the character of Chocolat, faults and all. Chocolat is trying hard to find his place in the world and is hurt deeply by the discrimination he experiences.
Interestingly, James Theirree who plays Footit is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin and a real life circus performer. He was an inspired choice to play Footit. His gloomy and melancholy demeanour is at odds with his chosen career as a clown and the total opposite to Chocolat’s effervescent personality. He is wonderful as Footit.
Clotilde Hesme is warm and loving in her role as nurse and eventual wife of Chocolat.
For an entertaining and sharp film filled with physical comedy and moving compassion, look no further than Monsieur Chocolat. This film will stay with you long after you leave the cinema and provoke questions of equality, friendship, human foibles and the meaning of true love. It is also a history lesson sharing the story of one of France’s ground breaking entertainers. Monsieur Chocolat is in cinemas now!