Sunday, June 16, 2013


(August 1992, U.S.)

Early in the Spanish film LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, we learn that it's governing forces are food and magical realism combined with the ordinary. Life for many may not have much magic in it, but I'd be willing to bet many of us (inlcuding myself) take a great deal of joy in the foods we eat or the foods we look forward to eating. How many of us, perhaps, had mothers, grandmothers or aunts who could make their kitchen come alive with the smells, the joys, the wisdom and the love of good, traditional family cooking (man, how I miss my Aunt Lillian's cooking!)? In fact, just last summer I was scrambling an egg for my six year-old son's breakfast and he asked me, "Daddy, to you make my breakfast with love?" I replied, "Sam, I always cook your food with love." Despite the fact that I honestly felt just a little stupid saying something so damn corny, it seemed pretty obvious that I was remembering LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. You see....movies inspire us more than we think!

The film follows a young, pretty girl, Tita (played by Lumi Cavazos) who is forbidden to marry because of a ridiculous family tradition that says as the youngest daughter, she is responsible to care for her mother until she dies. Therefore, when the boy she has been flirting with, Pedro (played by Marco Leonardi), and his father come to ask for Tita’s hand in marriage, Tita's mother, Mama Elena (a real ruthless bitch who makes Norman Bates' mother look like a fucking saint!), refuses. Mama Elena instead offers her other daughter, Rosaura, and Pedro accepts only for the purpose of being closer to Tita. The first sign of food combined with some supernatural magic is when Tita bakes the wedding cake with her own tears falling into the batter. Later, the cake causes vomiting, crying, and a longing for their true love in all the guests who have eaten it. Sometime later, Tita puts her feelings for her beloved Pedro in a meal of rose petals. Tita's sexual heat and passion transfers to Gertrudis upon eating the meal. Gertrudis attempts to cool down by taking a shower, but is overcome with lust and runs off naked with revolutionary soldiers (Oh sure, we all do THAT in extreme moments of horniness!). This moment is filmed rather well, because despite the fact that Gertrudis (played by Claudette Maillé, a woman who somewhat resembles a combination of Julia Louis-Dreyfus mixed with Tina Yothers of TV's "Family Ties") is not particularly beautiful and somewhat chunky, there is something, nonetheless, very desirable about her.

Life goes on, year after year, for this family that takes true solice in the food they prepare and eat. One can't help but feel that this family is probably lucky to have the passion they have for food in their lives because there's almost nothing happy about any of these characters and their lives. Everyone, be it Tita, Pedro, her sister, her servants, her doctor friend, everyone seems to be sad, depressed, confused or troubled about something. The only relief this family (and the audience) begins to feel at all is when Mama Elena finally dies. Yes, we're HAPPY when she dies because the entire time she's alive and making her daughters miserable, you can't help but constantly repeat the words, "What a bitch!" in your head.

As I said, time continues to move forward and its twenty years later that we learn of Rosaura death of "severe digestive problems". Pedro confesses to Tita that he still loves her, and wants to marry her. Tita and Pedro then make love, igniting their "matches" or passions too quickly, actually killing Pedro just as he has an incredibly sensuous orgasm. Tita then swallows matches, lighting the entire ranch on fire in the process. Rosaura's daughter returns to the ranch and finds only her Aunt Tita’s cookbook, which contained her recipes and told of her and Pedro’s love story. The film ends (as it also begins) with the decendant of this curious family and what her family's history and the magic behind the food they create has meant to her and what it will likely mean to future generations. There are some that believe food is love. Maybe so. LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE certainly makes a valid argument for such a claim.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Gertrudis: "Sergeant, can you cook cream fritters?"
Sargento Treviño: "To be honest... no. But if you want, I will try."
Gertrudis: "You have never let me down before. I hope this will not be the first time."
Sargento Treviño: "Yes, my general."

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