So I’m juggling projects:
- a writing/research project to be announced later
- updating prospective donors on the James Family Letters film project and correcting the transcript from the scholars’ meeting
- putting the finishing touches on my presentation for Transgressing Hartford’s Color Line: The Life of Painter Charles Ethan Porter on February 16 at the Hartford Public Library
- outlining “An African American Family in Connecticut: From Slavery to Triumph” at the Wasch Center at Wesleyan
- preparing to conduct a writing workshop on “Listening to the Voice Within” for Artists for World Peace
- beginning to plot out a talk for Essex Meadows’ Arts and Exploration series
Back to work!
Please excuse: Preview is still disabled, so mistakes may slip through.
Like Water for Chocolate should have been called The Wages of Repression. I watched it during the Bluehost outage. Here’s a fuzzy analysis that includes an abbreviated version of what I wrote as I read the book in 2009.
As the youngest daughter, Tita lives to serve her mother, an autocrat with a secret. The film mixes the increasing harshness of life for the upper classes during the Mexican revolution with the magical realism of Tita’s escape.
Part of the problem may have been that I was reading the book when I watched Pan’s Labyrinth. The two ran together in my dreams and in my head even though the book is set in Mexico around 1900, and the movie takes place in Franco’s Spain.
The book drew me because of the recipes that begin each chapter. This despite the fact that I could eat maybe two (the hot chocolate and the wedding cake). The rest are made with copious amounts of lard or pig innards, or both. Recipes lacking such ingredients start, “Two days after killing the turkey…” The narrative includes flocks of birds and fire materializing out of nowhere, a huge wedding gathering reduced to tears, mass vomiting, deaths and disappearances without logic. Most of those events involve Tita’s ability as a chef to evoke intense and passionate reactions.
The movie was much heavier on the magical with a resulting lack of realism. The acting fulfilled its promise in most cases except for the seriously overblown young American doctor (named John Brown) who pursues Tita and whose name evokes an image of a firebrand who sought to free the slaves. This J.B. is most definitely not a firebrand even if he’s trying to free a woman in bondage.
Aside from the mother and her vitriol, the character who shines is Gertrudis. This middle sister is so hot she burns down the outside shower and then rides off naked with the rebel Juan. And she saves the movie from being a tale of female oppression by returning as a general in the rebel army.
Final opinion? Good but not great. The film serves as another example in which the book is far superior. Despite gorgeous photography, the visual representations of sensuality – food, heat, violence – become attenuated compared to the written narrative. Or maybe it’s just my imagination.