Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel’s 1989 book was filmed by her then-husband Alfonso Arau (probably better known to readers of this site as the actor who played El Guapo in John Landis’ 1986 comedy THREE AMIGOS) in 1992, and it’s just received a new dual DVD and Blu-ray release courtesy of Arrow Films.
We are in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. On a ranch near the US border lives Tita, youngest of the three daughters of Elena, and destined by tradition to spend her days looking after her mother until the old lady dies. Into her life comes Pedro, who wishes to marry her. Unable to do so because of the looking-after-mother-rule, he marries firstborn daughter Rosaura instead, so that at least he can be near the woman he loves.
Years pass, and Tita’s love of cooking, combined with a supernatural ability to infuse her food with her emotions, causes her to have an effect on the community around her. This also includes her mother and her two sisters, one of whom runs off to become a revolutionary, while Rosaula ends up overweight and excessively burpy, eventually dying of flatulence (an art house first?). As numerous elements seem to contrive to stop them will Tita and Pedro, doomed lovers if ever there were, finally end up together? And if so, at what cost?
In case you’re wondering (I certainly was by the end), the title LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE refers to the boiling water used to make hot chocolate, and in its native Spanish refers to someone hot-headed, either with anger or passion. It’s the latter emotion with which Arau’s film (and Esquivel’s novel) concerns itself. The film looks beautiful, and is a fine example of the literary genre known as ‘magic realism’ brought to the screen. In fact the movie feels like an adult fairy tale, taking place in a land where magic is possible but never overly intrusive, and with a distinct tone of the quirky fable about it (the movie is told in flashback by a girl balancing an onion on her head).
Arrow’s Blu-ray of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE is a lovely transfer that does full justice to the film’s colour palette of golds and browns, beautiful sunsets and warm vistas. The only extra is a commentary track, recorded in 2013 and featuring director Arau and stars Lumi Cavazos (Tita) and Narco Leonardi (Pedro). It’s in Spanish but there are subtitles.
Arrow Films released LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE on dual format Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 2nd March 2015