The Austin Chronicle

Like Water for Chocolate

Rated R, 113 min. Directed by Alfonso Arau. Starring Lumi Cavazos, Marco Leonardi, Ada Carrasco, Regina Torne, Mario Ivan Martinez.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., May 7, 1993

Like Water for Chocolate, a simmering cauldron of romance and revolution, passion and purity, mysticism and witticism, is a powerful and heady brew. Based on Laura Esquivel's best-selling novel and directed by her then-husband Alfonso Arau (who is one of Mexico's most acclaimed directors as well as a well-known producer and actor), it is the tale of a family of Mexican women headed by the tyrannical Mama Elena (Torne). Fueled by her own lovelorn bitterness, Mama Elena thwarts the budding romance of her daughter Tita (Cavazos) by insisting that, as the youngest daughter, she follow tradition and forsake marriage to stay home and care for her mother -- until death does them part. Salting the wound, Mama Elena offers Tita's suitor her oldest daughter's hand instead, and he accepts, believing it to be the only way he can be close to his true love. Tita, having no other outlet for her passion, abandons herself to the culinary arts. As she prepares the nuptial banquet, her tears fall into the wedding cake, infusing it with such sorrow that all who eat it begin weeping uncontrollably. It is the beginning of the long and mystical relationship Tita has with food and its preparation. Though the film is set in Northern Mexico in the early 1900s, it possesses such immediacy we are able to savor the unfamiliar flavors of the piece without cultural or period distancing. It is consuming, with beautiful performances, masterful direction and intricate detail woven cunningly into a simple but compelling story. Throughout the movie, Tita asserts that the only special ingredient in her recipes is the love with which she prepares them. This real life couple's collaborative effort is graced with that ingredient and imbued with rare alchemy. It's a privilege to partake of such a feast.

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