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Years ago, in California, I walked into a gas station convenience store to
buy some consumable or other. The man who took my money was a Mexican
emigre, and he saw that I was carrying a copy of the book Like Water for
Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. He asked how I liked it, and I told him I was
loving it. He told me not to miss the movie.
"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.
Usually when I read a book, I am disappointed by the movie; there is so much more in the written word than can be put on screen. And when I see a movie I never want to read the book afterwards. This was the first movie that I read the book after seeing the movie; Como Agua Para Chocolate is THAT good a movie! And the book is WONDERFUL! The fairy tale aspect of this movie is told subtly, but with a strong Hispanic sense of mysticism-- you have the evil (step)mother, the heroine as Virgin Mary, who has magical powers, unrequited love, the unobtainable prince, and other classic fairy tale elements. This combines with the real elements of the Mexican Revolution and old world family practices revolving around family relations, martimony, and most of all cooking. Food plays a major role in this movie, but even more so in the book. I recommend both the book and the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like Water for Chocolate is a wonderful romantic movie set in Mexico at
the turn of the 20th century during the Mexican revolution. It is the
story of a woman named Tita and the love of her life Pedro. When Tita
is young, Pedro asks Tita's mother for her permission to marry Tita;
however, due to the fact that Tita is the youngest daughter, family
tradition bans her from marrying and she must remain unwed to care of
her mother. Pedro then marries Rosaura, Tita's sister, and tells his
father that he is only marrying Rosaura to be closer to Tita. Very
upset by all of this and her loveless situation, Tita infuses her
passion and love for Pedro into her food and thus, when people consume
her cooking they become intensely aroused, at one point resulting in
her sister Gertrudis getting lustfully swept away by a revolutionary
soldier. Tita's mother sees that she and Pedro are becoming quite close
and so she sends Pedro and Rosaura off to go and live in San Antonio.
Tita becomes very depressed and even more depressed when she hears that
Pedro and Rosaura's son Roberto has died; so depressed that her mother
sends her to an asylum. At the asylum, Tita is brought back to health
by a doctor named John Browne. No sooner does Tita begin to recover
when her mother is injured by rebel soldiers in a raid and she is
forced to return home to her ranch. When Tita returns home, her mother
is very bitter and refuses to eat thinking that Tita's food is poisoned
and soon dies.
After Tita's mother dies, Tita is allowed to marry and the doctor, John Browne, proposes. John asks Pedro to bless the marriage and when talking to Tita about this Pedro lustfully takes her virginity. The movie continues with the main premise of who Tita will choose to spend her life with, Pedro or John Browne and her battle against her mother's ghost.
The movie interestingly depicts revolutionary Mexico and the soldiers involved. The Mexican Revolution was mainly between supporter of Díaz, very conservative, and supporters of Madero and Zapata who believed in land reform and more help to the indigenous. The fighting between the two factions continued quite intensely until February 9, 1913 when President Wilson sent Madero a message saying that his fighting in Mexico City was dangerous to U.S. citizens and property. Madero hated this foreign intervention, but Huerta was placed in power to quell the fighting. Huerta was well liked by the aristocracy, the capitalists, and church but was hated by Zapata, Pancho Villa, Carranza and Obregón who led the opposition right after his induction as president. The fighting then continued and later even began within the liberal faction, but died down when Carranza was named President.
The movie does a good job showing the different types of soldiers, those with Díaz and those with Madera and Zapata. Tita's sister Gertrudis runs off with a revolutionary and returns later as a general in charge of an army of fifty five men. Tita's mother was harmed by soldiers as well, but a more violent type of soldier. The movie does an excellent job illustrating the uncertainty of the period and the different roles people played. The history is accurate, but I thought it might be a bit helpful for their to be a little bit more background for it could be hard to someone who does not know about the Mexican Revolution to understand what is happening.
All in all, the acting was very good, the storyline was enticing, and the cinematography was excellent. It is definitely a movie worth watching, both as entertainment and as something educational. Rating this movie out of ten points, ten being the highest, I give it a ten easily. It is a very enjoyable movie.
Like Water for Chocolate is a masterpiece in that it conveys the
essence of our ancestors' knowledge forgotten in the fast pace of
It centers around the wonder of cooking: a sacred ritual, not a boring chore; and when done right, with love, it creates magic. Raised and taught to cook by her old Mayan nanny, Tita (exquisitely performed by Lumi Cavazos) masters the near-magical ability of transferring her love and other feelings into her creations passed into one who eats them.
The characters senses are so refined, they enable everyone involved in this family drama to be tuned to the finest nuances of their world, opening the door to non-material pleasures. Rich with metaphors, their language reflects the skills of keen and sometimes humorous observation. The story brings our perception to a different level - as its characters' empathy borders on miracles and magic, and things we only sense and feel become real. Tita's virgin breasts, feeling `like dough kneaded' by strong hands, turn into mature breasts under Pedro's burning eyes (to later start lactating) - their glances, just like her food, becoming the means of communicating their forbidden love.
Yet all magic becomes wasted in the face of a man's choice. The Universe may scream into Pedro's ears about the path he is to take, but if he doesn't follow it, no magic can save him. We witness the story of a fatal attraction between two soulmates, whose passion, confined by an enslaving family tradition, lights up everyone around them... But for themselves, it's so intense, it literally engulfs the lovers in flames. Did they have an alternative? It is for the viewer to figure out.
You may ponder, however, over the young doctor's Indian grandmother saying that `each of us is born with a box of matches inside but we can't strike them all by ourselves; we need oxygen and a candle to help. The oxygen would come from a lover's breath; the candle could be a food, a melody, a word, a caress, or a sound...' He remembers her warning, though, that `it is important to light the matches one at a time' because otherwise the heat generated would produce too dazzling a brilliance.
Thus the wisdom of the ages, just like the power, is passed here through women and the men who are in tune with them. And the intense interactions between the colorful characters of five generations extend to dead family members who continue to counsel or despise the living.
When coming into her room with Pedro after 22 years of their waiting for each other, Tita is greeted by her long deceased nanny lighting her bed and the room with multiple candles. And the consequences of one's actions carries on beyond time - as each person continues her path notwithstanding death.
Hot yellow-red colors intermixed with dense lighting rekindle one's passion for living and appreciation for the gifts and mysteries of the Mexican land. The magic realism becomes a way of living in a culture connected with its heritage.
I recommend Like Water for Chocolate to anyone who feels like he/she is lacking color and passion in life - if watched with an open mind and heart, this beautiful and enigmatic film will stir your senses and imagination and light up your box of matches!
This is a wonderful, fanciful and very erotic movie. It is a rare film
is as good as the book on which it is based. It was a wise decision to
Laura Esquivel, the author of the book, write the screenplay. The story
contains so much fantasy, I thought it might be very difficult to
it sucessfully to the screen, but the results are superb.
The scene in which Tita's sister is so aroused after eating Tita's Rose Petal soup that she literally burns down their outdoor shower from her body heat and then runs naked across the plain only to be scooped up and carried away on horseback by a bandit is one of the sexiest moments ever put on film.
This movie is not for everyone, but if you enjoy erotic (but NOT pornographic) fantasy, try "Like Water for Chocolate"!
Scenes of incredible beauty and humor. This film appeals to all of humankind's tastes (visual, intellectual, gustatory, sexual, etc.) It is one of the greatest romantic comedies showing the lives, values and beliefs of another culture ever presented as a gift to the American public. Be aware though that it is not an experience that will appeal to everyone. You won't enjoy it if you don't love food, have an imagination and understand that daytime soaps are not art.
I saw Como agua para chocolate partway through on the spanish channel and
was immediately entranced by it's raw beauty and emotion.Thank
for those subtitles or I would have moved on. It's a tale of old traditions
in Mexico and Tita, the youngest daughter, is the one doomed to follow
them.The tradition is that the youngest is to stay with her mother and take
care of her and remain single the rest of her life while her oldest sister
gets to marry. For Tita though, it's too much for her to bear having fallen
in love with Pedro, the one that her sister is to marry. Later he admits to
Tita that he only married her sister to be near her.The rest of the story is
for you to uncover.
I have never seen a more romantic scene in any movie where Gertrudis runs from the burning shower down the road and is swept into the arms of her lover and carried away. It's a stunningly sensual film that is deeply moving. If you haven't seen it, watch it with a lover.That only adds to the romance of the story!
I'm greatly surprised at some of the negative comments for "Like Water
for Chocolate", many of which state how it utterly failed to capture
the passion or the mystical tone of Laura Esquivel's book.
I suppose it's only a matter of opinion(like pretty much everything, I guess), but I thought the movie represented the book's magical realism in a great way. The filmmakers knew not to exaggerate or take everything over the top(which could've been very easy), and this gives the fantastical moments-- such as all the guests becoming ill at the wedding or the shower bursting into flame as Gertrudis bathed-- an essential grounding in reality. This fact is also buttressed by the erotic musical score and the whole cast, who fit the characters from the novel perfectly IMO.
I would recommend giving the film of "Like Water for Chocolate" a go; and trying out the book as well.
The two things that stood out for me in this film are the telling of this story and how you had no idea what was going to happen next and of course the performance of Lumi Cavazos. Its one of those rare experiences that stay with you long after you have seen the film. Both strong and self assured. Whats really amazing is that its Cavazos first film role (That I know of, anyway) her natural charm is essential to this story. Not a film for all taste's but a very unique movie overflowing with romantic grandeur.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I first saw this movie, I thought I didn't like it. But when I
found that I could think of nothing else for the next several days, I
realized that it had cast its spell on me. Indeed, it will take you to
a magical place if you let it.
The plot is apparently a common one in Spanish literature. A woman in a loveless but proper marriage has three daughters. Shortly after the birth of the youngest, her husband dies, leaving her a widow with a ranch to run and three daughters to raise. Family tradition dictates that the youngest daughter must never marry, but rather stay and care for the mother as she ages. It is this youngest daughter, Tita (Lumi Cavazos), that we follow as she struggles with this oppressive tradition, which her mother, Elena (Regina Torne) forces upon her. Tita, a beautiful young woman, is loved by Pedro (Marco Leonardi), but his request for her hand in marriage is spurned by Elena, who suggests he marry her eldest daughter, the homely Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi). Pedro does this so he can live at the ranch and be near Tita. Tita's other sister, Gertrudis (Claudette Maille) and her nurse, Nacha (Ada Carrasco) are sympathetic to her plight. Rosaura is oblivious of Pedro's preference for her sister. Elena, however, is quite well aware of it, and it only serves to enhance her cruelty towards Tita. It's a no win situation for Tita, but she manages to make the best of it, by putting her repressed emotions into her cooking, with some surprising results.
It's not the pleasantest of stories, nor the most sensible. One would think that Elena, who is supposed to be a fairly intelligent woman, would treat Tita more kindly since she is forcing Tita to stay with her. Their conflict resonates throughout the movie, driving the story along with a great deal of power. Along the way, we get a little magic, a lot of humor, and an unfortunately tragic ending. And it is a tale that stays with you long after the movie has finished.
The acting is wonderful. Cavazos gives us a heroine you can't help liking. Balancing her is Torne, who plays Elena with malice that would give even Joan Crawford pause. Arizmendi does a nice job with Rosaura, giving us a character who starts out pleasant enough, but whose upset at what befalls her causes her to become just like her mother. Maille's Gertrudis is a wonderful, if slightly manipulative, free spirit. Leonardi's Pedro is a bit wimpy, making me wonder what Tita and Rosaura see in him, but still turns in a good performance.
The cinematography is gorgeous, giving an enjoyable view of the Mexican countryside. And the presentation of the food is stunning, making your mouth water.
This film is a delight for the senses, and one that is well worth seeing.
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