My Favourite Books: The Chocolat Trilogy

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I normally write about films, but, being one who hates being boxed in and this still being a fledgeling blog, I wanted to follow my compulsion to write about some of my favourite books.  Henceforth, here is my first book post.

Most people have heard of Chocolat by Joanne Harris, read it, and/or at watched the film adaptation, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.  I watched the film quite late after it’s release, in 2005, really enjoyed it and then bought the book (usually the other way round for me), which is even better.  When I realised that there was a sequel, The Lollipop Shoes was duly bought.  Then, in 2012, the third novel was released, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure and I bought it ‘hot off the press’.

Juliette Binoche, Chocolat

Chocolat follows Vianne (who lives like a traveller, going where the wind takes her) and her daughter, Anouk, who end up in the village of Lansquenet in the South-West of France.  They ruffle the feathers of the villagers by opening a chocolate shop during Lent.  Vianne also raises eyebrows with her free-spirited approach to parenting.  Their presence, along with Vianne’s divine chocolates, has a strange effect on people, bringing out their personalities and desires.  Will Vianne settle in Lansquenet and will the villagers accept her?

In the sequel, The Lollipop Shoes, we find Vianne and Anouk living in the Montmartre, Paris.  Vianne opens a new chocolate shop.  She also has had another daughter, Rosette, since the first novel.  A mysterious stranger, Zozie, turns up in their lives.  Zozie is charismatic and seemingly kind, but her intentions are far from good.  Tired, confidence lost and fed up of moving from place to place, how will Vianne deal with this threat to her family?

Peaches for Monsieur le Cure sees Vianne and her daughters return to Lansquenet, after Vianne receives a letter from an old adversary.  Things have changed in the village since she left and new troubles have been stirring.  Can Vianne help her old friends in Lansquenet?

I could not put these books down.  I feverishly read each one and literally could not wait to read them again.  Beautifully descriptive, Joanne Harris has created such wonderful characters that you cannot help, but fall for them, even Monsieur le Cure!

I particularly love The Lollipop Shoes.  The book ensnares you from the start and has the tone and pace of a modern fairytale for grown-up’s.  Departing more into fantasy than Chocolat, I feel the author has written the book she always wanted to.  Having holidayed in France as a child, I really feel the warmth for this wonderful country exuding from these books and accuracy in it’s depiction of village life.

To sum these books up, they are a joy to read. If you get as fed up with chick-lit and formulaic thrillers as I do, give these wonderful stories a try.  I hope you fall in love with them too.

Moulin Rouge (2001)

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“There was a boy….a very strange, enchanted boy….they said he wandered very far, very far…..over land and sea, a little shy and sad of eye….but, very wise was he…..and then one day, one magic day, he passed my way….while we spoke of many things….fools and kings….this he said to me, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn….is just to love and be loved in return.” Nature Boy, sung by John Leguizamo on Moulin Rouge soundtrack

Moulin Rouge

In 2001, a riot of colour, song, beauty and costume exploded on the cinema screen.  Moulin Rouge.  If I’m honest, I sat through the first 20 minutes wondering what the heck was going on, but then, I let go of reality as soon as Kylie appeared as the green absinthe fairy and stopped thinking and let the creative mad genius of Baz Luhrmann envelop me and I was hooked.

Jim Broadbent, Ewan Macgregor, Nicole Kidman

Already a fan of Luhrmann’s pop culture interpretation of Romeo & Juliet, I knew Moulin Rouge would not be some run of the mill romance story.  Once again, his use of modern pop and rock music for a soundtrack, along with amazing visuals and a brilliant story was a winning formula.

Moulin Rouge tells the story of Christian (Ewan Macgregor), a penniless writer in search of true romance and success in literature, arriving in Paris in 1899.  He befriends the artist, Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and gets sucked into the seemingly glamourous night-world of the Moulin Rouge.  Christian meets and falls in love with the beautiful star of the Moulin Rouge, and courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman).  She takes a chance and returns his feelings.  The lovers plan to escape together, away from Satine’s pimp and manager of the Moulin Rouge, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) and a wealthy patron of the club, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) who has become obsessed with Satine.  Although the lovers are helped by their friends, as they work on a new musical for the Moulin Rouge, things are not as simple as they appear….

I love that Nicole and Ewan sing their songs, rather than somebody else.  This gives the film more heart.  The soundtrack is amazing, it includes covers of songs by Nirvana, David Bowie, Elton John, Sting and Randy Crawford.  I have the soundtrack and my favourite is Beck’s cover of Diamond Dogs.

Satine and Christian (Kidman & Macgregor)

Nicole Kidman is at her most beautiful and Ewan Macgregor his most charming.  Jim Broadbent and the rest of the supporting cast are fantastic too.  If you love art, stunning costumes, colour, romance and music….you will love this film.

Satine (Nicole Kidman)

Satine: “Never knew, I could feel like this…like I’ve never seen the sky before, want to vanish inside your kiss…..every day I love you more and more.”

Trivia:

The necklace that Satine (Nicole Kidman) wears was not costume, but made with 1,308 diamonds and platinum.  It was the most expensive item of jewellery ever made for a film, worth $1million!

Moulin Rouge is dedicated to Baz Luhrmann’s father, Leonard, who passed away just before filming began.

Images: IMDb

Amelie

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Amelie is a delightful french fancy of a film that leaves you feeling wonderful and ready to don your ballet pumps and pack your chic leather weekend bag, bound for Paris.  If you like romance, but want sophistication with it, Amelie is the sweet Laduree macaron of the chick flicks.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this 2001 film did very well for a French movie.  There are many fantastic french films, but not that many are commercially successful in the uk (sadly), however, Amelie was.

This was the film that made the beautiful Audrey Tautou a star.

Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou)

Amelie Poulain views life through rose-tinted glasses and lives in a fantastical world.  As a child, she was home-schooled and not allowed to play with other children because her parents believed she had a heart defect.

Amelie overlooking Paris

Her mother dies in a freak accident and her father withdraws from the world, caring more about his garden gnome than his daughter who clearly needs him. Amelie moves to an apartment in the Montmartre and works in a cafe as a waitress.

Amelie discovers a box of childhood memorabilia, that had been hidden by a little boy who lived in her apartment years before her.  She decides that she wishes to find the owner of the box and whilst doing so, she wishes to help enrich the lives of those around her. Whilst helping others, she is not addressing her own loneliness and need for love.  Amelie finds the little boy, now grown up (Nino, played by Matthieu Kassovitz) who hid the box and falls in love with him, but is not prepared to confront or act on her feelings.

Audrey Tautou is a joy in this film and never makes Amelie cloyingly sweet, annoying or stupid.  Some people dislike the way Jeunet shows Paris, in such a beautiful light. I disagree with the naysayers.  Jeunet is simply showing Paris through Amelie’s eyes.  She wants to see the good in everyone and in her surroundings and that is good enough for me.

Amelie watches Nino (Matthieu Kassovitz)

If you have never watched a foreign/subtitled film before, Amelie is a good film to start with.  For me personally, if a story is good then I don’t see the subtitles after the first ten minutes and I’m engrossed.  A beautiful feel good movie for anyone who enjoys a quirky romantic movie, or who has been, or wishes to go to Paris.

Trivia:

The main colours in the film (green, yellow and red) are inspired by the paintings of the Brazilian artist Juarez Machado

British actress, Emily Watson, was offered the role of Amelie.  In fact the role was specifically written for her, but she declined as she does not speak French

Jean-Pierre Jeunet often portrays children as orphans in his films

Amelie works in a cafe called Les Deux Moulins.  This cafe really does exist in Paris.