Chocolat

This circus-set period piece (early 20th century) examines the typical historical roles of black entertainers and performers within predominantly white, western society (specifically Paris), and sadly one can’t help but think ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ – which I think is the overall point being made. Omar Sy plays a clown who takes on the role of sidekick/the butt of racist jokes in a double act with a white clown, and it’s the kind of role that has its own toned-down equivalent in movies today. Many black actors currently working – particularly in America – will be overly familiar with it, including, ironically, Sy himself, now that he has made the leap across the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately the various extraneous dramatic elements surrounding his character (relationship problems, addictions etc) divert too much attention away from the more important points the film is trying to make, and are themselves not really explored in a way that could be described as ‘satisfying’. That’s a shame. There’s nice attention to period detail, though, particularly in the recreated circus tents and theatres. (**½)