Le Chocolat de H
Think of chocolate-producing nations, and Japan may not spring to mind—but one award-winning patissier seeks to expand its possibilities by incorporating traditional Japanese ingredients in this mouth-watering doc.
When you think of artisanal chocolate-making, you might not think of Japan, but Hironobu Tsujiguchi could be the greatest living exponent of the art. And he does consider it an art—as much a vehicle for personal expression as a poem or a song, as Takashi Watanabe's doc demonstrates. (The film takes its title from the name of Tsujiguchi's shop in Tokyo's Ginza district.) We follow him as he prepares for Paris's annual Salon du Chocolat by searching out and incorporating the staples of traditional Japanese cuisine—sea salt, miso, mirin, rice flour, tea-plant stems—in honor of his heritage and specifically of his father, also a confectioner. (This backstory is told through charming re-enactments of his childhood memories, including his first culinary epiphany, a taste of whipped cream.) From these up-to-date experiments, Tsujiguchi also travels backwards, visiting Ecuador to sample the very pods on the cacao trees and share the end result, his award-winning jewel-like bonbons, with children in a nearby village. This isn't a drama-filled story of a talented newbie clawing his way to the top—Tsujiguchi's already won five Salon gold medals and is hoping for a sixth—but rather a lyrical portrait of an artist, loco about cocoa and treating ganache with panache, who's exquisitely and innovatively married Japanese aesthetics to one of the West's most adored treats.
Takashi Watanabe is a Japanese director, and Le Chocolat de H (2019), which follows the artisan chocolatier Hironobu Tsujiguchi across the world, is his feature debut. Watanabe isn't new to documentary filmmaking, however. In 2003, Watanabe joined TV Asahi Productions and, assigned to produce news programming, interviewed more than 100 people, including leading political and business figures, for documentaries.
Sponsored by Origami Magazine, Princi, Seattle - Kobe Sister City Association, The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles, Consulate General of Japan
- Director: Takashi Watanabe
- Premiere Status: North American Premiere
- Country: Japan
- Year: 2019
- Running Time: 84 minutes
- Producer: Yoshio Maruyama, Masahiro Nakamura
- Cinematographers: Daisuke Nagasaki, Hiro Ishikawa
- Editors: Ayumu Takahashi
- Music: Hisaki Kato
- Website: Official Film Website
- Filmography: Debut Feature Film
- Language: Japanese
- Has Subtitles: Yes
- Format: DCP