Jorge Amado’s, ‘Gabriela, Clove & Cinnamon’. Also a film with Sonia Braga



Ilhéus in 1925 is a booming town with a record cacao crop and aspirations for progress, but the traditional ways prevail. When Colonel Mendonça discovers his wife in bed with a lover, he shoots and kills them both. Political contests, too, can be settled by gunshot…
No one imagines that a bedraggled migrant worker who turns up in town–least of all Gabriela herself–will be the agent of change. Nacib Saad has just lost the cook at his popular café and in desperation hires Gabriela. To his surprise she turns out to be a great beauty as well as a wonderful cook and an enchanting boon to his business. But what would people say if Nacib were to marry her?
Lusty, satirical and full of intrigue, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon is a vastly entertaining panorama of small town Brazilian life.

I read this book 40 years ago and picked it up again the other day.  Jorge Amado is my favorite Latin author who captures the duende of such a long time ago.  J.R.


This 1983 remake of Gabriela, directed by Bruno Barretto, features THE most sensuous performance of Sonia Braga on film interesting, considering she was in the 1976 original film, also as the title character. But Barretto does things the previous director did not do, and nails the story, as well as casting, also interestingly, Marcello Mastrioanni as the Syrian Nacib who is entranced by Gabriela’s obvious femaleness. In what is very likely the most sensuous scene in filmdom–or certainly one of them–he has her over a first floor window. You can actually feel the room temperature rising around you when this coupling is going on.
What it is that Barretto nails is the spirit of Jorge Amado’s novel–that which captures the uncontrolled and uncontrollable desires of a woman who, as uneducated as she is, rules men with her looks. Nothing new there, but there’s no other film like the 1983 Gabriela for “fleshing out” this concept.
The Mastrioanni-Braga chemistry is white hot and that’s true not only for the coupling they do, but also for the arguments they have. Only when there is passionate love can there be passionate arguments, and they are definitely here, no question, making this a film that grabs you.

~~~ WATCH ~~~

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