Merci pour le Chocolat (review)

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Legendary directory Claude Chabrol’s latest is a perverse little truffle, dainty psychological terror on the outside with a creamy filling of familial jealousy and unrepentant domestic psychopathy. Two Swiss families, the Pollets and the Polonskis, joined by a brief and nearly forgotten incident 20 years earlier, find themselves suddenly intertwined again, which is the spark that re-ignites one woman’s enduring resentment and insecurity. Isabelle Huppert is quietly chilling as Mika Muller, heir to a chocolate empire whose money and manners can’t compensate for an inner emptiness; neither can her all-encompassing possessiveness directed at her new husband, famed pianist André Polonski (Jacques Dutronc). The appearance of an intrusive new student, Jeanne Pollet (Anna Mouglalis) and the presence of André’s son, Guillaume (Rodolphe Pauly), home from school for the summer, bring out the worse in her… though you’d hardly guess it from her calm and hospitable demeanor. Huppert imbues simple, generous acts like offering a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) with an understated menace, transforming Mika from a simple anti-heroine to an understated metaphor for female aggression, lashing out with a sweet smile and a kind word. The effect is gently ghastly.

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