Actors: Isabelle Huppert, Jacques Dutronc
Director: Claude Chabrol
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Cohen Media Group
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Run Time: 99 minutes
Claude Chabrol’s Nightcap (Merci pour le Chocolat) is what you might have gotten from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca had it been a comedy. There is a mystery at the center of the film, but the reveal comes as less of a surprise as the casual manner with which the film’s murderous culprit justifies and dismisses these evil actions. Even the revelations of criminal insanity are not enough to disturb the pristine veneer of upper class wealth.
The film begins with the highly publicized remarriage of a famed concert pianist to his second wife, Mika (Isabelle Huppert), after the death of his third. André (Jacques Dutronc) also has a grown son from his first marriage named Guillaume (Rodolphe Pauly), who appears to get along well with Mika. Despite the remarriage, their life seems to already be in a comfortable routine until a surprise visit from a young woman born on the same day as Guillaume and nearly switched with him at birth due to a similarity in last names.
Although it seems unlikely that anyone truly believes that Jeanne (Anna Mouglalis) is really André’s daughter, her coincidental pursuit of a career as a pianist instantly gives her more of a connection with him than with his own son. Despite the fact that Guillaume is the one expected to be jealous of this new arrival, they inevitably form a bond through suspicions of unsavory actions committed by Mika. As the head of a lucrative Swiss chocolate company, Mika insists on making the family hot chocolate as an evening nightcap for the entire family, which Jeanne inquisitively discovers is being laced with sedatives.
Even when we know where the film is headed, it is a devious treat to enjoy because of Huppert’s captivating performance. This makes what might have otherwise been an underwhelming film into something wickedly enjoyable. Made in 2000, the release of Nightcap on Blu-ray seems oddly timed, though thankfully fourteen years has not dated this crime comedy. The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with film critics Wade Major and Andy Klein, as well as a new essay from critic Peter Tonguette in the booklet insert. There is also a re-release trailer.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 7/10