Food & Magic & Desire: Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

This post is part of the 3rd Annual SEX! (Now That I Have Your Attention) Blogathon, hosted by Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog. Read the rest of the sensual posts HERE!

The 1992 Mexican film Like Water for Chocolate was based on the novel by the same name by Laura Esquivel. Her then-husband, Alfonso Arau, directed the film adaptation.

Set during the early 1900s in revolutionary Mexico, it recounts the tale of Tita (Lumi Cavazos), the youngest daughter of Dona Elena (Regina Torne). Even in the womb Tita shed many tears. So many, that when the afterbirth water dried, it left 40 lbs. of salt behind for the household to use in cooking.

This is, of course, the first inkling that this is a story of magic realism, a narrative where magic exists within a realistic world.

Soon after she is born, Tita’s father dies suddenly. Her mother declares that in keeping with family tradition Tita, being her youngest daughter, can never marry and must take care of her until she dies.

When she is 15, Tita meets Pedro (Marco Leonardi) who declares his love for her. Elena refuses to give permission for the marriage, offering her eldest daughter Rosaura (Yareli Arezmendi) in her stead. To Tita’s horror, Pedro agrees.

Tita is forced to make the food for the wedding. While mixing the batter for the cake, her tears fall into it. When the guests eat the cake, everyone is seized with a profound longing for their one true love. Everyone falls ill, including Elena, who cherishes a photograph of a mulatto man who is the true father of her middle daughter Gertrudis (Claudette Maille).

Pedro assures Tita that he only married Rosaura so he could stay close to her. When he presents her with roses, the thorns scratch her skin and draw blood. She makes a sauce with the rose petals that drives everyone mad with sexual desire, particularly Gertrudis, who strips naked and–quite literally–runs away with a revolutionary soldier.

When Pedro and Rosaura’s son Roberto is born, Rosaura is unable to nurse him. Pedro sees Tita’s bare breasts while she’s grinding corn. The passion between them causes them to fill with milk so she can feed the child. Elena, suspecting Pedro and Tita are not staying away from each other, sends Pedro, Rosaura and the baby away. Without Tita’s milk the child dies.

After a mental breakdown and a marriage proposal from a nice doctor (Mario Ivan Martinez), Tita is finally free of her domineering mother but still can’t get over her passion for Pedro. She is forced to choose between a secure, conventional life or one filled with passion that society refuses to recognize.

While the film does have some nudity and one sex scene (and another implied one) it’s truly through the light touches of magic that sensuality is conveyed. The magical elements are nearly all revealed through Tita’s cooking. Food is love and passion in this story. A plate of chilies is so lovingly rendered by Tita that everyone eating them is seized with passion, leading to guests at a wedding jumping into their cars for a quickie.

I have to say that although I love the way food and love and magic and sex are intertwined in the story, it doesn’t hide the fact that Pedro is a jerk who isn’t remotely worthy of Tita. (And, yeah, I must be getting curmudgeonly, because I wanted to scream at Tita to marry that nice doctor.)

But…people love who they love, and desire who they desire. Like the water referred to in the title (which is used to liquify chocolate) a bit of heat all it takes to make it boil over.


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