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Like Water for Chocolate (May 2, 2013)

Laura Esquivel, a Mexican writer, published Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), her first novel, in 1989. The novel had twelve chapters, each for a month of the year, and each started with a recipe, which was worked into the story of that chapter. The title, in Spanish, refers to near boiling water, and is an expression that can refer to someone being very angry, or alternately, to someone being very aroused sexually. Her then-husband, Alfonso Arau, directed this movie from a screenplay by Esquivel. The cinematography was by the American Steven Bernstein and the Mexican Emmanuel Lubezki. The music was by the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer. It starred Marco Leonardi as Pedro and Lumi Cavazos as Tita. We saw Miss Cavazos last winter in Bottle Rocket. This movie was made in the border towns of Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. The picture was released in 1992 in Mexico, and in 1993 in the United States.

When I first saw this film, I loved it for its magical realism. Things happen in it that might not be plausible in real life, but which seem entirely appropriate, and very much true, poetically if in no other way. Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times of April 2, 1993: “And now here is a movie where everyone seems at the boil, their lives centering around a woman whose sensual life is carried out in the kitchen, and whose food is so magical it can inspire people to laugh, or cry, or run naked from the house to be scooped up and carried away by a passing revolutionary.” Janet Maslin in the New York Times of February 17, 1993 wrote “Whether you approach this swift, eventful tale on the culinary or the cinematic level, prepare for a treat. . . All of this is presented with the simplicity of a folk tale, with exaggerated events blending effortlessly into those that seem real.” This picture is, I think you’ll find, a great pleasure. It’s the first showing of a subtitled, foreign language film in the five-and-a-half year history of this series of movies at the library, but I think you’ll have no trouble understanding it. I hope you enjoy watching Like Water for Chocolate with me tonight.