The Scent of Green Papaya (Mui du du xanh) directed by Anh Hung Tran. For more information about this image please see CFE > Image Credits.
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Better Than Chocolate

1998
Meilleur que le chocolat
101 min., colour, 35mm
English
Director Anne Wheeler
Producer Sharon McGowan
Writer Peggy Thompson
Cinematographer Greg Middleton
Editor Alison Grace
Sound Matt HaleHeidi HolmGael MacLeanJon McCleery
Music Graeme ColemanAni Difranco
Principal Cast Peter OuterbridgeMarya DelverWendy CrewsonKaryn DwyerChristina CoxAnn-Marie MacDonaldKevin Mundy
Production Company Rave Film Inc.
Better Than Chocolate centres around nineteen-year-old Maggie (Karyn Dwyer), a bright, effervescent and idealistic young woman who drops out of university and begins working in a lesbian bookstore on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. There she works for the shy Frances (Ann-Marie MacDonald), whose shipments of books are constantly confiscated by Canada Customs officials, and meets the salaciously bisexual Carla (Marya Delver). Maggie falls head over heels for Kim (Christina Cox), an itinerant artist who lives in her van, but their passionate romance is interrupted by the arrival of Maggie’s mother, Lila (Wendy Crewson), and her younger brother, Paul (Kevin Mundy), who come to live with Maggie after Lila’s second marriage falls through.

Maggie, whose blithely clueless mother doesn’t know she is gay, tries to fend off questions about her place of employment, her new best friend and the box of sex toys under the bed. While Maggie struggles to maintain her relationship with Kim under the strain of Mom’s constant prying, Frances fends off the advances of the sensitive, transgendered Judy (Peter Outerbridge), an inquisitive Paul succumbs to the advances of Carla, the increasingly open-minded Lila wears out the batteries on the sex toys, and a gang of gay-bashing skinheads causes trouble for the bookstore.

A light-hearted date movie targeted at young gay women (the filmmakers utilized a focus group of twelve young lesbian women whose opinions informed the development of the script), this breezy, feel-good romantic comedy is genuinely amusing, angst-free and accessible to all sexual orientations. It played at numerous international festivals and swept audience awards at nearly every gay and lesbian festival to which it was invited. Better Than Chocolate generally split critical opinion into two camps – those who found it fun and entertaining and those who felt they were choking on syrup. But the film enjoyed a very successful international commercial release: it opened in the top ten in its first week of release in Germany and received extra press when its poster (which depicted two naked women embracing) was banned in Hong Kong as being indecent.

By Andrew McIntosh
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