Chocolat France 2016 – 110min.
France, late nineteenth century. Once a renowned clown, Footit now desperately tries to get hired by any provincial circus. After yet another refusal, he tracks down a black man who is employed by circuses to scare the public as a “cannibal from darkest Africa”. Charmed by the energy of this man, Footit offers to form a unique clown duo with him: white Footit and black Chocolat. The immediate success they encounter leads quickly to Paris, where fame and fortune changes the life of Chocolate, but also brings back the harsh reality of the times.
Chocolat is one of those hybrid “popular films”: while it is good, it is profoundly flawed. Good, because the show is provided by Omar Sy, who uses his body and voice to perfection. Also good because Roschdy Zem films this extraordinary and relatively unknown story with much energy, and without getting bogged down by historical reconstruction or the costumes. After the comedy Mauvaise foi, the engaging film Omar m’a tuer and the drama Bodybuilder came and went with little attention, this biopic definitely marks a critical point in the director’s career. But Chocolat is also – perhaps mainly – a flawed film, doomed never to really go beyond the classic biopic: it is devoid of nuance, grandeur or depth. This is evidenced by the movie’s leads – Sy is better at the comedy than the drama and James Thiérrée is at times moving and at times awful. Chocolat lacks confidence and is never completely convincing.