2002 film starring Salma Hayek
, Alfred Molina
, Ashley Judd
, Edward Norton
, Geoffrey Rush
, Mia Maestro
and Antonio Banderas
Warning: Some vague spoilers here-- not enough to ruin the movie.
"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." --Frida Kahlo
With a life as amazing as the one artist Frida Kahlo led, one would think that a movie would have been created about her life long ago. But the advantages of making a movie now would be the ability to utilize current technology in making an incredibly innovative and inspiring biopic. Director Julie Taymor (known best for the Tony-winning play "The Lion King") proves this with her stunningly crafted film, "Frida."
The role of Kahlo was much sought after by the likes of Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, though Salma Hayek won out, getting the chance to portray a bold Mexican female artist who underwent terrible hardships throughout her life after getting severely injured in a trolley wreck in her teens. While spending copious amounts of time bed-ridden, Kahlo began to paint, first on her cast and when space ran out, onto a canvas. After regaining her ability to walk, she promptly approached famed Mexican artist (and womanizer) Diego Rivera, who informed her that she had a tremendous artistic talent.
"I suffered two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down.....The other accident is Diego." --Kahlo
Rivera, portrayed superbly in the film by Alfred Molina, married Kahlo and the couple had a long and tumultuous marriage. Rivera's womanizing was the
primary problem, though Kahlo was guilty of straying as well -- with both men and women. As a matter of fact, she was known to have affairs with Josephine Baker, Georgia O'Keeffe and even Leon Trotsky, among others. The couple
influenced each other greatly artistically, which is exhibited in the movie also.
A common concern when it comes to bringing an artist's life to the screen is, should it focus on their life or on their work? A blend of both would seem best- it would be silly to have a movie's focus be only on the art, when one can simply visit a museum for the same effect. By focusing on the life a viewer gets the ability to see how the artist was influenced. This film manages to focus on the artist's amazing life, while revealing beautifully pieces of her art simulteanously. Through "movie magic" the viewer can watch as a shot of one of Kahlo's paintings morphs into an actual event. Particularly moving moments in Kahlo's life, those of which she ended up painting about, are given added impact when her artwork slowly evolves as the event occurs in the film.
The couple is shown traveling to New York, where Rivera suffers more than a little static when he revealed his appreciation for Communism in a mural. Later, the couple returns to Mexico and briefly houses an on-the-run Trotsky, portrayed terrificly in the film by Geoffrey Rush.
The film covers a lot of biographical ground, yet its incredible, colorful style does not fail. The visuals evoke pithy emotions not unlike Tom Tykwer's "Run Lola Run," and the story of two provokotive artists perhaps has not been so eloquently managed on screen since "Henry and June."
"I drank to drown my pain, but the damned pain learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good behavior." -- Kahlo
Hayek does a fine job as Kahlo, minus the maudlin characteriziation she could have easily been portrayed with, and Hayek's job proves worthy of an Oscar nomination. She manages to give Kahlo the depth she deserves, offering the performance of a fierce yet gentle woman, a range of soul Kalho herself had the gift of displaying in her extraordinary art.
Rated: R for sex, nudity and language
Running length: One hour and 58 minutes