Newest Review: ... until they die. And because Pedro loves her, he decided to marry her older sister just to get closer to her, Tita is a great cook and s... more
A Mexican love affair
Like Water For Chocolate (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Like Water For Chocolate (DVD)
Advantages: Intriguing, beautiful to watch
Disadvantages: (For me) it's an unrealistic love story
This is a Mexican film, directed by Alfonso Arau and made in 1992. However, the story is set probably towards the end of the nineteenth century and is based on a book by author Laura Esquivel (which I haven't read). Although love is the central thread, the story is very much told around the subject of food and much of the time is spent in the kitchen, with Tita and the kitchen staff chopping, stirring, arranging and even killing the livestock. There is also a magical element to it, very much along the same lines as Chocolat, that seems to suggest that Tita can weave her spell through the meals that she cooks. There is also another element where dead people seemingly come back to life and Tita speaks to them as if they were there. All this somehow takes the story one step above the average love story, although ultimately, I still felt it had its flaws.
Tita is played by Lumi Cavazos, an actress I have not come across before, although she did apparently appear in an episode of Friends and has a very respectable filmography. As the central character, she did need to be compelling, and she succeeded. Tita is a very understated character, at least to start with, she knows that she has a cross to bear and is prepared to do her duty. As the film progresses, however, she toughens up in a truly remarkable way. And when it is needed, Cavazos pulls out all the stops to pour her heart and soul into the character in such a moving way that it is impossible not to be deeply touched. Cavazos reminds me very much of a British actress called Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Fanny Price in a 1983 adaptation of Mansfield Park. And in many ways, the stories have much in common - Fanny Price was also a down-trodden member of the family, doomed to be the one that takes care of everyone else. Cavazos is perfect in the role, both because of her acting skills and the way she looks.
I wasn't so impressed by Marco Leonardi, who plays Pedro. It's not that he's a bad actor, I just didn't fall for his charms for some reason. I guess many will think that it's terribly romantic that Pedro loves Tita and is willing to have a relationship with her sister just so that he can be close to her. Perhaps if he had been a better actor, I would have been convinced of it too. As it is, I found it all a bit disturbing. I don't doubt that the situation meant that was the only solution, but I still didn't like it and I just couldn't find myself warming to Pedro during the course of the film. I would much rather Tita had ended up with the man who wanted to marry her, who, although not as handsome, was an awful lot more pleasant. Leonardi left me cold, which I'm sure was not the aim of the director.
The other actors are good. There is a wonderful second sister, called Gertrudis, who, as a result of Tita's quail in rose petal sauce, gets so turned on that she runs off with a revolutionary. It sounds mad, and it certainly is quite funny, but actress Claudette Maille is perfectly suited for the role and keeps it from becoming a farce. Nasty Mama, played by Regina Torne, is suitably shrew-like, and lovely Esperanza, the kitchen maid (Sandra Arau), is adorable. Rosaura is played by Yareli Arizmendi and is alternately lovely and a pain in the butt. I have to admit I did feel very sorry for the character though - she was all too aware that her husband had only married her for the love of his sister and I think I would have become shrewish in the same position.
Love stories are not my favourite genre of film; in fact, I usually steer well clear unless there is plenty of humour mixed in with it too. However, this came so highly recommended that I had to give it a try. On the whole, I'm glad I did. Ultimately, it is a rather unbelievable love story, mixed in with lots of images of food and a dash of magic, yet the story is told well on the whole and the visuals do make it an awful lot better than other films. I also liked both the historical and the geographical touches, which was rather refreshing. I know nothing of Mexico in that particular period, but my interest has certainly been piqued and I would like to read the book on which the film is based.
I wasn't really sure how the film was going to end, mainly because there was enough going on in the film to keep my interest from wandering. However, the ending was quite a surprise and a very good way to finish the film. The story of Tita and Pedro is also bookended by Tita's Great Niece, another food lover, who is clearly deeply proud of Aunt Tita. She starts the story by narrating Tita's birth, before the actors take over, and then ends it by saying how much she loves Tita and her own mother, Tita's niece and Pedro's daughter. This makes it all seem that bit more authentic.
The cinematography is quite spectacular. There aren't many shots of the great outdoors at all, but there are an awful lot of food and people. I loved the way that the camera concentrated on the actors' faces, particularly Cavazos', who managed to tell a million stories with just tiny facial expressions. Mama was just the opposite - her facial expressions were very exaggerated, without being too over the top, and she looked positively scary at times. And the concentration on food was amazing, dwelling on it for just long enough to make your mouth water, but without becoming boring. There are obvious comparisons to draw with Chocolat; also The Scent of Green Papaya, which is a Vietnamese film also concentrating on food.
There are no extras to speak of with the DVD - just a trailer. The film is in Spanish and is therefore subtitled. The subtitles were always clear, and, although there was a great deal of talking in the film, I found them very easy to follow.
Apart from the fact that this was a love story I couldn't quite buy into, I did enjoy this film. It was certainly never boring and visually, it was very pleasing. Of course, the subtitles will put some people off, which I think is a great shame. If you don't mind subtitles and do like a good love story, I think you'll probably thoroughly enjoy it, especially if you liked Chocolat. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for
Classification: 15 (for mild sex scenes)
Running time: 105 minutes
Summary: One for the romantics