[Review in Spanish]
This is a delicious film about love, tradition, passion, communication, and food. There is a presence and influence of magic and mysticism throughout the entire film connected with the allegory of food. The story is set in early 20th century Mexico, where a new life is coming into the world in a time of sorrow, as her father drops dead of a heart attack upon learning of parentage of his middle child. The protagonist, Tita is the last of three daughters is born to respected, affluent family, and inherits a dubious birthright. According to Mexican tradition (or according to some, myth) the last-born daughter is forbidden to marry so she can care for her aging mother. Tita is groomed for this position by working in the kitchen with the housekeeper Nacha, and becomes the family cook. As Tita blossoms into a beautiful young woman she falls in love with Pedro, a handsome local boy. Elena, Tita's mother, refuses to allow Pedro and Tita to marry, but instead offers Pedro the hand of her eldest daughter Rosaura. Pedro accepts and Tita is devastated as she sees this a disloyalty, until she learns that Pedro's true intent is to be close to Tita. To add insult to injury, Elena commissions Tita to prepare the wedding feast. This is our first encounter with the film's mysticism and sets the stage for the relationship between sexuality and food. Tita cries into the cake batter and when the wedding party eats it, everyone cries for a lost love. Tita learns that she can communicate to Pedro through the very activity that imprisons her, cooking. This gives new meaning to the cliché 'the way to a man's heart is through his stomach'.
The story has an almost "Cinderella" element to it. Elena is as cold as the wicked stepmother and with Rosaura, who turns out to be similarly mean-spirited, treats Tita like a servant. Tita does not brood over her lot in life, works happily, and waits for the day she and her prince will be together. Tita's impassioned food intensely affects her middle sister Gertrudis, the progeny of Elena's adulterous affair with a mulatto, who experiences a sexual awakening after eating Tita's quail with rose petal sauce recipe.
"Like Water for Chocolate" is rich in symbolism and metaphors; the sensual food and their ingredients, Rosaura's daughter named Esperanza (Hope), and the movie's title. The Spanish idiom 'Like Water for Chocolate', implying passion and sexual desire, refers to the extremely high temperature that water must reach in order to liquefy chocolate. Although another interpretation could be the substitution of water to make chocolate instead of milk, which gives you chocolate none the less, but is not as good, similar to Pedro marrying Rosaura to be near Tita.
I was initially disappointed by the film's ending, not because it was weak or poorly done (it wasn't), but because it does not end with a ...happily ever after, which as an American female raised on Disney, I had been accustomed to expect. The endings in foreign films, unlike American ones, are symbolic and not necessarily happy.
The film is entirely in Spanish, with English subtitles. There also is a dubbed version, but it is a bit clumsy.
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: B+
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:
A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV
Like Czarina For Chocolate
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