review for Merci Pour le Chocolat on AllMovie

Merci Pour le Chocolat (2000)
by Wheeler Winston Dixon review

One of Chabrol's most recent films, Merci Pour le Chocolat demonstrates, as if any proof were necessary, that Chabrol is still at the top of his form, and that he has mellowed somewhat from his earlier, more violent and nihilistic films. Yet the clarity of his moral vision remains intact; it seems that he has just has more sympathy for human shortcomings, even as he has become almost documentarian in his approach to the lives of the bourgeois. As with most of Chabrol, there is a mystery ostensibly at the center of the proceedings, but as the film progresses, we see that Chabrol is less interested, as is often the case, with the mechanics of crime and more involved with the issues of class and social responsibility raised by his protagonist's dilemma. Jeanne Pollet (Anna Mouglalis) discovers that she may have been exchanged at birth with another family, and determines to track them down. Confronting them, Jeanne begins to unravel a complicated story of murder and deception in which the surfaces of society start to crack, and the frozen superficiality of social convention is exposed. In this, Chabrol in his most recent films is becoming more and more like the late Luis Buñuel, whose final films were really meditations on the human condition with faint surrealist overtones. In the final analysis, the plot of Merci Pour le Chocolat is just a pretext for a clinical dissection of bourgeois society, and the difference between public perception and private reality. Chabrol's films have deepened with age, perhaps understandably as he faces his own mortality, and Merci Pour le Chocolat winds up being only tangentially involved in solving a puzzle. Rather, Chabrol asks, when you strip away the mystery, how many more mysteries remain to be unraveled?