The Devil's Food
a letter to Catholic League president William Donohue concerning 'Chocolat'
le petit chocolat
February 18, 2001
President, Catholic League
450 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10123
There's a war on, though most of the American public is horribly ignorant of its dimensions. All the insidious Catholic-bashing and Christ-kicking palsy of the film industry and arts community have of late become so prevalent as to go almost unnoticed. Not by you, I know! I've got to hand it to you, Bill, you did a great job with that whole Yo Mama's Last Supper flap over at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last week. I loved how you told that curator lady, Millstein, "Would you include a photograph of Jewish slave masters sodomizing their obsequious black slaves?" Boy!
Well, I've got a new one for you. It's a movie called Chocolat, recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (horror of horrors!). If we don't want another public fiasco like last year's Cider House Rules victory (to my mind, the worst blow to the unborn since Roe v. Wade), we better get on this, and quick. It shouldn't surprise you that the duplicitous Weinstein brothers over at Miramax are behind this one as well—it's high time those two rich fatties received a good drubbing, God willing.
I'm assuming that your silence on this Chocolat issue to date is pure oversight and that you're probably too busy pulverizing sanctimonious liberals with your fountain pen to have time to attend the cinema. Therefore, I've taken the liberty of preparing a condensed, one-act version of the production for you (I am an aspiring playwright) so that you may clearly observe its anti-Catholic, pro-candy bias:
LE PETIT CHOCOLAT
Vianne (Juliette Binoche): traveling chocolatier
Reynaud (Alfred Molina): intolerant mayor
Armande (Judi Dench): bitter old lady
Roux (Johnny Depp): freewheeling river man
Josephine (Lena Olin): reformed lunatic
Luc (Aurelien Parent Koenig): young boy
Setting: Lent. A small village in the French countryside, circa 1960. A mysterious red-robed lady rides into town on the blustery north wind. Within minutes, this alluring stranger, now dressed daringly in a blue chiffon dress and five-inch red heels, has set up a Mayan-flavored chocolaterie opposite the village church, from which she begins dispensing her brand of communion. Several customers are gathered in the shop, eating and drinking. The town's severe, sexually frustrated mayor, Reynaud, enters.
REYNAUD: Good day. I am the curmudgeonly mayor of this quiet, God-fearing town. Your racy, atheistic chocolate shop is an affront to both Church and citizenry, and I will call on the mighty powers of Heaven to have you closed down and run out of town like a mongrel she-dog. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will let you know that I am impotent.
VIANNE (coquettish): I think I have what you need. Have you tried my 'Nipple of Venus' confection?
ARMANDE (crouched over cup of chili-powder cocoa): You blasted old nincompoop, Reynaud. You have used your position and the Church to oppress us for too long. We will no longer abide your officious jaw-wagging. By the Power of Chocolate, we shall be free!
CUSTOMER #1: Yes, the Power of Chocolate will defrock you!
CUSTOMER #2: Hail the mysterious Power of Chocolate from the highlands of distant Guatemala, where the natives live lives of bacchanalian pleasure, unlike us, who have survived only on the tasteless communion wafer!
REYNAUD: Blasphemy! How is it that once-devout villagers would defile Lent with filthy panderings to the pleasures of the palate? As your impotent leader, I beseech you: Return to your dull, non-chocolate-filled lives at once!
ROUX (in indecipherable Irish brogue): 'Shnot gwa 'appa, mate.
REYNAUD: Quiet, you gypsy river rat!
VIANNE (coquettish): The taste of chocolate is good. Chocolate equals good.
JOSEPHINE: My husband beat me senseless for years, Mister Mayor, rendering me a schizophrenic kleptomaniac who could barely dress herself. But Vianne's chocolate has made me healthy and sexy and powerful.
CUSTOMER #1: Yes, and my besotted husband and I had not shared the conjugal bed since the Mesozoic era. But this spicy, chili-laced chocolate has turned us into wild, randy jackrabbits.
REYNAUD: For the love of God!
LUC: I was a deeply troubled schoolboy who used to sketch horrifying scenes of human carnage and dead animals in my little picturebook. Vianne's cocoa has reformed me. Now I draw only pleasant things, like grannies and blooming flowers. I am whole!
VIANNE (coquettish): See, chocolate liberates.
REYNAUD (reflective): Perhaps there is something to this so-called 'chocolat.' Under my repressive regime of strict Catholic censure and reactionary social mores, the good townspeople have lived cloistered and unfulfilled lives. Yet, under the influence of this traveling confectioner's goodies, they seem happy and ebullient, freer, with wholly integrated personalities. Can chocolate, then, really be so destructive? I believe I shall have a gnaw on your 'Nipple of Venus.' (The gathered crowd waits with anticipation as he savors a chocolate sliver.)
ARMANDE: Impotent mayor, what is your verdict?
REYNAUD: I do say, I feel lighter, even joyous. (Shoves entire treat into his mouth. Crowd murmurs in excitement.) Yes, like blossoming spring. How can such things be? The ancient frost of my heart thaws. There is a playful shimmering deep in my being. Yes! Chocolate will be my new god!!
CROWD: Hail chocolate! Hail!
REYNAUD (smiling): Hail chocolate! Forevermore, this picturesque town will be known as a home to chocolate, an oasis where the downtrodden of the earth can be reborn as sensual, sexual, liberated beings, unshackled by history and religion. To the barricades! Ha! (Crowd breaks into a boisterous song and dance, gorging themselves.)
Bill, I cannot express how difficult it was for me to write the forgoing, and were it not for the fact that I used a word-processor, you'd likely see several tear stains on the page. To witness the glorious Savior losing out to a candy bar! At any rate, I suggest immediate action to prevent any possible recognition of this heathen claptrap by the Academy; we should start with a vigorous op-ed campaign and widespread theater picketing, followed perhaps by a boycott of all chocolate products and a recommendation to the Vatican for the excommunication of the film's Catholic participants, for they are nothing more than soulless merchants for the Antichrist. As always, I am at your disposal. Please advise on how to proceed. With God's help, we'll make it safe for good people once again to visit the movie houses of this country without fear.
editor's note: Donohue's letter to Barbara Millstein, curator of the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, concerned a series of photographs by artist Renee Cox, entitled "Yo Mama's Last Supper," in which Cox posed nude in the position of Jesus Christ à la Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper." The piece is part of BMA's current exhibit, "Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers."