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Film Review; Forgotten, Foriegn and Sleepers. "Like Water For Chocolate"
The opening scene bursts with Tita being born in the kitchen of the Ranchero and the mother cursing the day she was born. Knocking the bowls and other things off the wooden kitchen table, the mother, (Elena, played by Regina Torne), crawls up upon tabletop. Her water breaks and splashes, soaking the floor and steps. Nanna is there to help the babe and to place a spoken word of protection upon Tita's life.
The movie jumps a few years ahead to yet a third birth in this family and the Father celebrating among some gentleman. Underhandedly one tells the Father that this middle child is not his. This news angers the Father to the point of a heart attack and dies.
Next lies a sequence of scenes that focuses on relationship of Tita, (played by Lumi Cavazos), to her mother. As these two characters quickly develop, you learn Tita, as the first born in their tradition, is to take care of her mother and remain unmarried until her mother dies. Then walks in young Pedro, (played by Marco Leonardi) with his heart given to Tita.
Dr. Brown's Kiowa Grandmother's wisdom story.
Tita was the first born in her family and by the old Spanish family tradition, she was to never marry but reserve herself to take care of her mother, Elena. However, there is Pedro, who has adored Tita since they were small and the whole village knew of their affections. Soon, it comes to the mother's attention as Pedro is rumored to be wanting to ask for Tita's hand. Instead of allowing the marriage, Elena swiftly puts a twist into their lives by only allowing Pedro to marry Tita's sister, Rosaura.
Pedro resigns to the union thinking this would at least get him close to his untouchable love. Tita plays the devoted daughter but with scorn building in her heart. Her Nana teaches her to use the cooking in the kitchen to keep Tita's spirit alive and then a strange event happens with the magic of Tita's cooking. With her gift in the preparing of food, Tita learns she can pour her emotions and desires into the food, so that those who eat will feel and know those yearnings. One of the best moments in the movie that display this "magic" is when Tita cooks for the family, Quail with rose butter sauce. The scene heats up with consuming fire of desires and sets of a chain of events in the lives of the family.
The story is centered around a scortched cookbook that belonged to Tita, but now is in the hands of her niece, the daughter of Pedro. Using the cookbook as a diary, the niece unfolds the life of her adored aunt Tita, exposing Tita's heart for her Pedro along with delicate recipes for eating and the irony of love and life that are reflected in the consumption of magical food.
Tita's other two sisters play significant and colorful characters throughout the movie. There are many other characters to meet that pepper the story and adds just the right spice for the digesting of this great love story.
Laura Esquivel published her first Spanish novel, "Like Water For Chocolate", in 1989. Three to four years later, Alfonso Arau directed the movie with the author as the script writer! Every writer's dream! Once released, this movie became one of the highest grossing Spanish speaking films in the United States during that era. At about the same time, an English translation of the novel was published by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen. In addition to overnight success, the film won the Mexican Academy of Motion Picture Award and raked in 11 Ariel Awards for Best Picture.
The film directs the story line well, even with the English subtitles. It appears of good quality and the countryside scenes are spectacular! One of the greatest scenes, is when Tita is taken away from the ranch with her blanket she continously crochets! As she is driven down the dirt road, the blankets spills out over the carriage and extends for yards and yards. There are many strong images of symbolism from the story that pop out on the film, like the opening scene of when the child is born and the womb water drains to the kitchen floor and down some wooden steps, soon to dry to 40 pounds of salt for cooking!
Though this film is rated "R", the more racier scenes are done in very good taste and promotes the emotional tide of the story without distraction. Though the ending is hinted at in the middle of the movie, you will still be taken aback by the conclusion of this rich captivating love story.