Chocolat – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review
Chocolat is the biopic of former slave turned Parisian clown Rafael Padilla (Omar Sy). Down on his own luck and looking for work, George Foottit (James Thiérrée) a British clown and acrobat discovers Padilla in a small circus somewhere in the France where he was playing a cannibal savage to scare the children. Despite being an established name in the circus community, Foottit could still not sell his act to this ringmaster, but in a last ditch attempt he convinces Padilla to train with him, to rehearse with him, and to partner with him creating a new act, and the duo of “Foottit and Chocolat” are born! As word of their act spreads, the small circus routinely sells out with everyone coming to see Foottit as the authoritarian white clown (sad clown) and Chocolat as the “auguste” (happy clown).
News of the duo’s success travels quickly, and soon they are recruited for a famous circus in Paris where their stock and their fame continue to rise, but all good things come to an end. Chocolat grows tired of always being the butt of the jokes, he grows tired of the racism he encounters, and he grows tired of always getting second billing. He has greater ambitions than just being a clown, he wants to act, and takes the lead role in a production of Othello to prove that he can do it, which helps lead to the breakup of the act. Chocolat rose to fame quickly in Paris, something he wasn’t really prepared for, and he develops addictions to women, gambling and drink which also contribute to the dissolution of the team.
I don’t know how much of the film was based on the actual history and how much of the history was adapted for the screen. Based on a quick Wikipedia look, it seems some of the actual history was crammed together, and events in Chocolat’s career that happened with other performers were attributed to Foottit in the film, probably for brevity’s sake.
So this was a very, very interesting story! One that I certainly didn’t know anything about, but I was searching for the trailer for a different film when I discovered this one by accident. Omar Sy is an excellent actor and it looked like he really enjoyed this role, as Chocolat was an important character in entertainment history. I also really enjoyed James Thiérrée and felt sorry for Foottit at times, as his career suffered when Chocolat drank too much, or gambled to excess that he caused the duo to miss shows. Seeing Foottit trying to mentor the younger clown, to guide him, and to see his efforts fall upon deaf ears was played out very well on the screen. The attitudes, the scenery, the costuming, everything felt very authentic for turn of the century Paris. The film doesn’t shy away from the racism that was around either, but also doesn’t glorify it. It’s curious when you think about this film, about Chocolat and you think about racism. Chocolat’s entire career was based around his being black and being kicked or hit or slapped by the white clown. It’s strange to think that his success essentially came from the stereotypes, and from the ignorant cultural and racist notions of the white audiences of the time.
Bottom Line: Wow, I just found out that James Thiérrée is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin!
Posted on 17-06-29, in 4 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged bio-flick, biopic, Chocolat, Clothilde Hesme, clowns, Footit, George Footit, George Foottit, James Thiérrée, Monsieur Chocolat, Olivier Gourmet, Omar Sy, Rafael Padilla. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.