The easiest and most personal story for most artists to tell is the one of being a free spirit trapped in a conservative or misunderstanding place, and Hollywood has churned out many such a tale. What is refreshing this time around is that the film tries to take the story to another level without becoming too self-serious. The woman, Vianne Juliette Binoche , sets up a chocolaterie, much to the chagrin of the wickedly uptight mayor, played wonderfully by Alfred Molina. We soon learn that this woman, who came in mysteriously with the North Wind, adds a certain magic to her chocolate, bringing out the true desires in this repressed town. What makes the story interesting is that it is not just a question of whether she will change the town, but will the town change Vianne and her wandering ways.
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Listen For: The music opens with a rising perfect fifth played on the harp, over sustained strings. The use of open fifth chords, leaves the tonality unclear at the beginning which gives an air of mystery.
At the main theme enters on flute: This mainly stepwise melody is accompanied by a dynamic piano part and, again, sustained notes in the strings. Although it is in G minor, the melody starts on the mediant, B flat and ends on the supertonic, A.
However, Portman uses the dominant, D, particularly for the longer notes, to establish the tonality. The violins play a catchy syncopated idea, anchored by harp notes on the first beat of the bar.
Notice how the flute melody is drip-fed into the music — we firstly hear 3 notes of the melody, followed by 5 notes, and then at are treated to the whole phrase played twice. What effect does this have? It builds suspense and a sense of anticipation, particularly with the syncopated accompaniment. At the music is at its most exciting yet as the flute soars up into the higher register, doubled by first violins. From can you hear the different woodwind instruments in dialogue?
Things To Consider: How could you make use of open 5ths in your composition to obscure the tonality? Rather than presenting a whole 4-bar melody at once, divide it into segments and let it enter the music gradually.
Chocolat – Rachel Portman
Producing an adequate soundscape for a sensitive romantic drama is a task that the composer could complete in her sleep, and some parts of Chocolat are so drab that you may believe that she was indeed snoozing while writing. But, as usual, Portman inserts a few wildly infectious cues of spirit and melody, and it is this material, along with a couple of standard capitulations of her normal style of tender string theme that earned this score its Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Even though Chocolat is not as broad in scope and consistently entertaining as The Legend of Bagger Vance, Portman on auto-pilot produces a result still competitive with the average romantic or dramatic score of the era. Read More The themes are either anonymous in their constructs or poorly enunciated, because while the tone of their performances is easily recognizable, the actual progressions do little to leave a lasting impression on you. In a way, they had become a mechanical manifestation of a tired methodology by and in the absence of magnificent performances of significant depth, the solo variants of these melodic ideas had lost whatever unique qualities they had conveyed in previous efforts by the composer.