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Chocolat (Soundtrack) by Rachel Portman

Review by Christopher Coleman

Buy CHOCOLAT by Rachel Portman  from Amazon.comComposed, Orchestrated and Produced by Rachel Portman
Conducted by David Snell
Orchestrated by Jeff Almajian
Released by Sony Classical Records, January 9, 2001


Chocolat (Soundtrack) by Rachel Portman


Originality 8
Music Selection 8
Composition 9
CD Length 8
Track Order 9
Performance 9
Final Score 9/10

Returning to the romantic/comedy genre, composer Rachel Portman scores the Miramax film, Chocolat, a late entry into the film awards pool of 2000.  Chocolat is an Oscar-worthy score that comes on the heels of another highly praised soundtrack from Rachel Portman, The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Rachel Portman has an uncanny knack of delivering very emotional music that is similarly constructed and at the same time, refrains from becoming mere rehashes.  One need only look at the last two scores from Portman.  While The Cider House Rules was seriously lovely and The Legend of Bagger Vance sweepingly mystical, the most fitting way to describe Portman's latest effort is downright "mouthwatering!" 

Chocolat, the score, like the movie, is a lighthearted in nature, but has at least one serious undertone.  Both the levity and severity of the film are reflected in the film's score.  As a woman, Vianne Rocher, and her daughter arrive in a small French town in 1959, her specialty chocolate shop brings about unexpected change- change not welcomed by all the town's inhabitants.  The movie centers around Vianne's mystical ability to satisfy her customers private desires through her candies and then around the struggle that ensues between old-world values and newer, more liberal lifestyles.  This tension is reflected in Portman's crafty duo-toned-score.  On the one hand, she presents a classical, old-world, musical element, depicted in serious and depth-filled strings such as those found in Fire (13), and her familiar, solemn piano themes found in the first moments of the Main Titles (2).  This style is starkly contrasted with the freedom found in the upbeat, Latin musical ingredients, which are filled with sprite guitar playing and fanciful woodwinds.

Pucker up for this score because most film music fans will find this work, at times, intensely sweet, and at others quite the little spice rack.   The main theme from Chocolat is charmingly close in character to one of composer Thomas Newman's best , Little Women.  There is a definite quality of " wondrous sweetness" to the majority this score that is quite endearing, as heard in selections like:  Main Titles (2), The Story of Grandmere (3),  and Boycott Immorality (10).

Similarly to the construction of The Legend of Bagger Vance soundtrack, there are a couple tracks that employ the talents of other composers to provide a contrasting musical style such as:  Minor Swing (1) by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, and Caravan (18) by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol.  Both of these contributions are much more energetic and are played primarily on guitar and evoke Latin/Mediterranean feel. Rachel Portman delivers a couple of equally spunky pieces that flow very well with the aforementioned:  Vianne Sets Up Shop (4) Party Preparations (11) and It makes for a listening experience that surely keeps one from getting bored. 

One of the few gripes against some of Rachel Portman's scores, at least in how they are presented on CD, is the fact that her main themes often repeat themselves too many times throughout the soundtrack.  Fortunately, the main theme of Chocolat, introduced in track 2,  is not as oft repeated as in The Legend of Bagger Vance, but does make a fair number of appearances.

The duality of this score makes for an enticing listen that is not meant for big bites, but is meant for slowly melting on one's musical palette.  If the listener can be patient enough to do that, they will inevitably fall in love with this score.  Once again Sony Classical delivers a superbly recorded soundtrack.  The liner notes are meager in content, but lacking track times.  Chocolat is sweet enough to provide a musical-buzz, while spicy enough to supplant anyone's need for romantic-potency-pills.


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track  Title  Time



Minor Swing (Django Reinhardt/ Stephane Grappelli)


2 Main Titles 3:08  *****
3 The Story of Grandmere 4:09  ****
4 Vianne Sets Up Shop 1:59  ****
5 Three Women Sound Clip 1:02  ****
6 Vianne Confronts the Comte 1:22  ****
7 Other Possibilities 1:35  ****
8 Guillaume's Confession 1:30  ****
9 Passage of Time 2:33  ***
10 Boycott Immorality 4:39  *****
11 Party Preparations Sound Clip 1:29  ****
12 Chocolate Sauce 0:49  *****
13 Fire 2:38  ****
14 Vianne Gazes at the River 1:07  ****
15 Mayan Bowl Breaks 2:15  ***
16 Taste of Chocolate 3:09  *****
17 Ashes to the Wind/ Roux Returns 2:19  ***
18 Caravan (Duke Ellington? Juan Tizol) 3:43  ****

Total Running Time


* dialogue |     Sound Clip Real Audio Clip

Referenced Reviews:  
The Cider House RulesThe Legend of Bagger Vance


Quick Quotes

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Sound clips

Track 5 - Three Women

Track 11 - Party Preparations

Composer Rachel Portman

Rachel Portman

Buy CHOCOLAT by Rachel Portman  from




Get a Taste of Chocolat by Rachel Portman at

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