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Like Water For Chocolate

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 07/23/04 20:59:04

"A tasty Mexican feast!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate) belongs on a short list of the best food-centric movies, those food-related films that, in the telling, become, themselves, sensory feasts for body and soul.

In Mexico, it seems, the custom for preparing hot chocolate is to bring water to a boil before stirring in the rich chocolate. Here, "like water for chocolate" reflects the connection between food and sexuality, and is used as a simile for passions brought to boiling and sexual hunger at its most ravenous.

Like Water for Chocolate is a fable of "magical realism," the tale of Tita and Pedro (Lumi Cavazos, Marco Leonardi), whose unrequited love is so passionate that it infuses the food that Tita prepares and affects the emotions of all who eat it.

Tita, the youngest of three sisters, is forbidden from marrying Pedro, bound by the tradition for the youngest daughter to stay at home and care for her widowed mother until her death. When the cruel Mamá Elena (Regina Torné) instead offers him the hand of her eldest daughter, Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi), Pedro accepts in order to stay close to Tita.

When Tita is forced to prepare the cake for Pedro's marriage to her older sister, her tears in the cake batter send the wedding guests into paroxysms of grief. Drops of her blood, shed when she prepares quail in a rose-petal sauce, cause in her sister Gertrudis (Claudette Maillé) a sexual frenzy so great as to cause a bathhouse to spontaneously combust!

Told from the perspective of Tita's grand niece (presumably, the author of the source novel-cookbook and the film's screenplay, Laura Esquivel), the narrator describes the effect of Tita's cooking on Pedro as "invad[ing his] body voluptuously, ardently fragrant, and utterly sensual."

Similar to the sensory effects of a fabulous meal, or a night of world-class lovemaking, the words "voluptuous, ardently fragrant, and utterly sensual" equally well describe the aura of Like Water for Chocolate. In each case, an excellent way to enjoy the experience is with a playful spirit, relaxed and trusting in one's partner or the cook (in this case, director Alfonso Arau), just reveling in the pleasure of the moment!

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