Like Water For Chocolate

Like Water For Chocolate

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The most successful Latin American movie ever made (in 1991) has to be beautiful and almost certainly romantic. What is surprising is its supernatural playfulness, the importance of culinary imagination and the recognition of sexual combustion.

Tita (Lumi Cavazos) is the youngest of three sisters, living in a rambling ranch house on the Mexican plains at the beginning of the century. Her father died of heart failure when told that one of his progeny might be the child of his wife's mulatto lover. Widowed and penitent, her mother becomes embittered, isolated and tyrannical.

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When Tita meets Pedro, the son of a neighbouring landowner, she falls in love at first sight. She cannot speak for fear of weeping. "I am a man of few, but firm words," he announces, three of which reflect her emotional certitude.

Their passion cannot be consummated. Being the youngest, Tita is forbidden to become a bride. She must look after her mother. It is a tradition in the family.

Pedro marries Tita's elder sister and lives in the house. Tita expresses her anguish and desire through cooking, often with painful, hilarious results. After making quail in rose petal sauce, her sister Gertrudis sets the outside wash shed alight with the heat of her body and is rescued, naked, by a passing revolutionary on horseback. Others are sick.

Elements of magic and a closeness to the spirit world corresponds exactly to Tita's repressed emotional life. It is a very literary film, in the snese that a narrator rushes the story along, giving its characters little time to establish themselves. Pedro, for example, played by Marco Leonardi from Cinema Paradiso, is little more than a handsome face.

There are moments when it feels like a five hour movie squeezed into two and others when it drags, especially the wooing of Tita by the kind, dull doctor.

"A breast untouched by love is a useless lump of dough," she says, spending longer with dough than ever being touched.

Although the ending can be forgiven, due to Cavazos's sympathetic performance, it succeeds in abusing the honesty of Tita's sacrifice with brutal sentiment.

Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2005
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Food becomes emotional for a dutiful, sex starved daughter during the Mexican revolution.
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Read more Like Water For Chocolate reviews:

Martin Drury ***1/2

Director: Alfonso Arau

Writer: Laura Esquivel, based on the novel by Laura Esquivel

Starring: Marco Leonardi, Lumi Cavazos, Regina Torne, Matio Ivan Martinez, Ada Carrasco, Yareli Arizmendi

Year: 1992

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico

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