Blame it on the Chocolate. Chocolat and the Life Well Lived


I saw the film Chocolat again the other night, what a treat in every way.  It’s a classic tale of lust for life in all its beauty and sensuality fighting draconian, arid morality that poses as deep spirituality and seeks really to stifle and destroy everything that’s good and truly sacred about life and people.

The story’s set in the 50’s I think, in a small rigidly Catholic village whose priest tries awfully hard to be holy but secretly loves rock music and is really fighting a losing battle within himself.  Still, he – and the townspeople – are controlled by the resident Count who fiercely represses his own  powerful sensuality which terrifies him.  He imposes a frigid, acetic, heart and soul-dessicating discipline on everybody.  Women dress drably and are either slaves to their chauvinistic, insensitive men or to a punitive, unforgiving God.

The film opens in lent, where the Count’s control is all the more severe.  A few of the townspeople are in the mood for rebellion but they don’t dare.  They’re ripe to be led into sin, though.

Into this tight-lipped, severely judgmental community drifts a beautiful, sensual free spirit and her equally beautiful daughter.   To the horror and outrage of the Count she wears feminine dresses and red shoes – opens up a chocolate shop where sells the most devastatingly seductive chocolate drink and home-made chocolates.

And the war is on.  They’re persecuted by the Count who tries to force people to shun them so the shop will close down.  But the heroine and her daughter embody love, compassion, warmth of heart, body and soul, tolerance, humor, fun, spiritedness – and refusal to be taken down.  Gradually, the townspeople find themselves being seduced against their better judgment.

In the end, good triumphs over evil, love wins the day, and even the Count gives in to his own sensuality and desire to live a rich, rewarding life.  Blame it on the chocolate.   I love movies like this, where petty persecution parading as spirituality and the ugliness of warped spirits and minds which turn people into rabid bullies get shown up for what they are – all sound and noise, signifying absolutely nothing.  And where all it takes is one strong soul to stand up against the bullying masses and they’re vanquished.

It’s a David and Goliath story told sensitively, powerfully, with passion, humor and beauty to feast your eyes on.  It reminded me how fantastic life can be, gave me courage to pursue my dreams regardless of obstacles.  It lit up my world, and the vanquishing of the bullies made me laugh out loud.  Now where can I go and find myself some chocolate…

Listen, here’s what I think.

I think we can’t go around…

measuring our goodness by what we don’t do.

By what we deny ourselves…

what we resist and who we exclude.

I think we’ve got to measure goodness…

by what we embrace…

what we create…

and who we include.

                                                                                                   (from the priest’s sermon)

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