Before Guillermo del Toro, Alejando Gonzáles Iñáitu and Alfonso Cuarón became Oscar darlings, Alfonso Arua’s Like Water for Chocolate was probably the most acclaimed movie ever made by a Mexican. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say as much as it might if Mexico had a movie industry geared for quality in order to make comparison. Because there’s a long history of the absence of class moviemaking, an otherwise very good movie becomes the victim of blurbitis—hyperbole gone amuck. What is the biggest, most pleasant surprise of Like Water is Arua trusting his targeted audience—he doesn’t waste time on pedantics, he in fact almost races through the clumpy weight of the Latin genre of magic realism, stopping only long enough to clarify the central metaphor. The tale of familial obligation struggling against the tide of self-assertiveness works without the required alchemy—the character Gertrudis, for example, could be every Mexican woman’s quest for sexual adventure—and there are some of us who would argue Tita’s consumption of the metaphor isn’t really necessary. (Isn’t it enough Pedro illustrates its hazards?) On the other hand, if as director you’ve trapped yourself in a genre you love, the conclusion is quite in keeping. Everything’s acted, cooked and shot as if it’s all a dream. The wonderful Lumi Cavazos plays Tita.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2005 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.