Like Water for Chocolate Review

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On this day, many years ago we celebrate the triumph of Mexico over the French, at least until they came back and defeated us. But, never mind that, today is a day in which we celebrate Mexican culture, from its food to its traditions, and what better encapsulation of Mexico as a whole than Alfonso Arau’s 1992 sprawling forbidden-love epic, Like Water for Chocolate. Like Water for Chocolate is a touching romantic film that is set in a very specific time in Mexico, during the Revolutionary years, yet it doesn’t really deal with the Revolution at all and just sort-of puts aside, choosing to center on Tita instead, the daughter of Mamá Elena. An amazing translation of magical realism to the screen, Like Water for Chocolate is a film that works thanks to its wonderful character-work as well as its touch of the fantastical, plus an added bonus of food-porn. Every scene in which one of Tita’s dishes is served in this film makes your mouth water, especially the scene involving the quail in rose petals. Like Water for Chocolate has a very interesting story in which even though it takes place smack down in the middle of Mexico’s Revolution, in Northern Mexico it totally ignores the clash of ideologies happening up there between Villistas and Constitucionalistas, choosing to instead focus on this very sensual, touching love-story that sprawls decades through we which we see our protagonist go through all sorts of ups and downs. This is where Lumi Cavazos incredible performance comes into play, making you believe she is somehow emotionally connected to her magical food, deeply in love with a man who barely talks during the extent of the film, and a very emotionally explosive character that is constantly being suppressed by the amazing Regina Torné as the evil Mamá Elena who is more than anything just bound to the traditions of her time. Exploring the cultural clashes and changes that happen in Mexico during these times is one of the best components of this film, showcasing the evolution Mexican woman have demonstrated through the years. As for negatives, after like an hour-fifteen of the film’s runtime, at about the time Dr. Brown is introduced the film’s pace does slow an awful lot and takes sometime until it gets interesting again. My secondary issue has to do with something that happens to many old films, and that’s the effects regarding a certain version of Mamá Elena which don’t necessarily hold up. Lastly, I did believe in the brewing romance between Tita and Pedro, but only because of Tita, in the beginning I did understand Pedro’s motivations, but as the film moves along his lines of dialogue seem to become less and less and his demeanor changes to a more arrogant one, altering the validity of romance between these two-supposed star-crossed lovers. Yet, in the way it depicts the evolution of females in Mexico, and the breaking of the norm in regards to such silly traditions that held women’s potential back, Like Water for Chocolate soars with in exploring this with characters like Tita and Gertrudis. The same can be said about its depiction of the fantastical, the way the more magical aspect of the film are introduced and depicted in this film are executed in such a brilliant way that naturally flows in with the rest of the story is great. This film also deals with a lot of nudity and it never feels excessive or unnecessary, it always feels natural, like the addition of magical realism. Another thing to note about the film is one of its DP’s, that being Chivo. The great Emmanuel Lubezki serves as cinematographer on this film and yet the cinematography feels very tame, there are some landscape shots that scream the beauty of Chivo’s later works, but its really interesting to look back and see how Chivo’s work has changed over the years. In the end, Like Water for Chocolate is a touching love-story that explores the evolution of women’s roles in mexican society with a dash of magical realism and even though it gets slow for a long interval of time, its still a great story and 78 out of 100 from my part.

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