"Oh," I answered, "but I always worry that the movie will never be as good as the book."
"It doesn't matter," he told me. "This is a very great film. And it is the first real Mexican film I have ever seen shown in this country. You know, to everybody, not just the Mexican community."
I smiled and told him I would check it out, but honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about. After all, I knew who Dolores Del Rio and Cantinflas were, and the movies with them that I had seen were shown in L.A., to everybody.
But now, at last, I have seen this movie, and now, at last, I know what this guy was talking about. Like, wow! This really is a real Mexican film! Art! Cinema! More than just a bit of popular fluff!
Tender, compassionate and very witty, like the book on which it is based, this movie celebrates Mexican culture -- not just on the food, the preparation of which forms the premise of the story, but as kind of a rollicking take on the history of the young country at the turn of the century. It celebrates the music, the style of life on a ranch, the strength of the extended family, the beauty of the land, and the ethnic mixing pot that is every Mexican.
There is so much reckless joy and passionate love in this film, even when it portrays pain. It openly depicts female eroticism. (Plus, for a big change from US cinema, we get to see beautiful men and women of many shapes, sizes and colors all on the same screen.) The acting is flawless, and the star, Lumi Cavazos, is absolutely charming, full of life and credibility.
The only flaws I found in this film were minor and had to do with timing. For example, the final ascent to the climax seems to have been shortchanged a little bit. I would have liked to reach through this scene a little more slowly.
To judge Mexican cinema by the type of films I had seen before this one would be like judging U.S. cinema on the basis of Jerry Lewis or some cheesy melodramas from the '40s and '50s, but not taking into account any of our real film art. I'd love to know what else I've missed. Can't wait to find out.