I had a feeling that this would be an exceptional BLU RAY reissue and I'm glad to be proven right.
The picture quality is uniformly gorgeous and highlights the vivid array of expertly researched detail the 150-strong production company filled every scene with - Mexican clothing, terracotta interiors, chaotic art studios and colonial South American buildings. Its default aspect is 1.78:1 - so it fills the entire screen without stretching or loss of clarity. You combine this with a sympathetically-written script, brilliant acting and a genuinely affecting and unfolding story (never mind the huge amount of EXTRAS transferred in full from the DVD - see list below) and the whole experience is a joy to re-watch and re-discover.
The first thing that strikes you about the print is that 'colour' is everywhere. It opens in Mexico in 1922 when Frida Kahlo is a precocious 15 year-old and able-bodied (before her horrific accident) and over the course of the movie progresses nearly 30 years hence - so lighting - textures - interiors - all have to be matched. The Blues, Reds, Yellows and Gold are full on and evoke a Mexico of the period (all beautifully done by Production Designer Felipe Fernandez - Oscar nominated for his work here).
The autobiographical nature of her art is captured in cleverly woven-in scenes and her painful injuries/nightmares are portrayed at times by grotesque animation peopled from her canvas creations. Frida suffered back pain all her life (an iron rod skewered her abdomen and uterus in the accident) and famously painted lying down with a mirror over her bed (she later had toes and a leg amputated due to her injuries). Yet she defied all expectations and after two years in casts managed to walk again. Taymor's movie fills the screen with this - her spirit, her driving need to matter and her bisexual lovelife and gender-bender dress sense. This is a world where politics and passion are seething in the streets - and boozy nights are spent discussing the first and engaging in the second...
The cast is large and seriously talented - and Frida is a role Salma Hayek openly admits she'd always wanted to play. The worst you could say about her performance is that her beauty and astonishing sensuality sometimes hinder believability. But she gives her all and her supporting cast are so well chosen that her film-star looks get quickly forgotten. Given the depth and difficulty of the part - her nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role is richly deserved.
And while Ashley Judd (her dialogue discussing their marriage titles this review), Geoffrey Rush, Edward Norton, Antonio Banderas, and Roger Rees all contribute their vignettes with heart and commitment - the film's real ace-in-the-hole is ALFRED MOLINA. He is simply astonishing as Diego Rivera - the Mexican murals painter who married Frida in 1929 at the age of 43 when she was only 22. Diego was a fat ugly man who became her mentor, lover and on/off husband for 25 years. Loveable one minute, loathsome the next - the film is so much better because he's in it (Salma sings his praises in the extras). A lecher, habitual womanizer and a serious-minded Communist - it's a ludicrously difficult part to nail - yet Molina is never anything less than brilliant. Charming at first when he's getting what he wants (wooing Frida in the alley outside his studio) - then to his wandering glassy eyes as infidelity creeps to the surface (watching her sing at a party, but eyeing the other women there) - he later crosses the line completely by sleeping with her sister (fathered a child by her too). The big question is - why did a woman as smart and as committed to loyalty as Frida - countenance this boor for even a second? Friends gave their union 'two months' - her own mother described their marriage as being between "...an elephant and a dolphin..." The answer the film tells us is LOVE.
In interviews, Director Julie Taymor states that both she and Salma returned to Frida's diaries and found they were not about betrayal and men-as-pigs (as many feminists feel) - they were all about Diego and her. Frida really loved him - admired him - supported him. Of course she wanted to slit his throat on several occasions - and was ultimately broken by him (the scene where she cuts her hair is particularly powerful) - but she seemed to stick with his first wife's advice to accept the rough with the smooth because the overall gain was worth it ("...He's the best of friends and the worst of husbands."). It's an odd relationship in an oddball world. Yet both Hayek and Molina are so believable that when the film morphs from one of her paintings of the married couple standing in a room into the actors playing them - it's hard to tell the difference. Taymor (who devoted almost two years of her life to the project) does well to rescue Frida from self-pity and loathing - showing instead her courage and joie-de-vive - her fierce loyalty no matter what. Taymor's partner Elliot Goldenthal also provided the film with a beautifully apt Latin guitar score (for which he won the Oscar).
To sum up - it was never going to be an easy task to film the life of this icon of Mexican art (Frida) and interpret her tumultuous lifelong relationship with another free soul (Diego) - yet both Julie Taymor and Salma Hayek pulled it off admirably. It was nominated for six Oscars and won two - Best Make Up and Best Original Music. You can't help but think it should have won more (especially for its two leads)...
A quality BLU RAY reissue then - and like a good political knees-up with Leon Trotsky - wholeheartedly recommended.
BLU RAY Specifications:
VIDEO: 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio [Full Screen]
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
SUBTITLES: English, English for the Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing, Spanish
1. (Feature Length) Audio Commentary by Julie Taymor (Director)
2. A Conversation With Salma Hayek - Lead Actress Playing Frida Kahlo (near-40 minute facing-camera interview covering all aspects of the shoot)
3. AFI (American Film Institute) Q&A with Julie Taymor conducted 2 Oct 2002 by Deszo Magyar (30 minutes)
4. Bill Moyers Interview With Julie Taymor (19 minutes)
5. Chavela Vargas Interview - A 93-year old Mexican Lady Singer who knew Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (Subtitled, 15 Minutes)
6. The Voice Of Lila Downs - a Mexican Singer-Songwriter who sang some of the music for the soundtrack (5 minutes)
7. The Vision Of Frida with Rodrigo Prieto (Cinematographer) and Julie Taymor (6 minutes)
8. The Design of Frida with Felipe Fernandez (Production Designer) (near 3 minutes)
9. The Music of Frida with Elliot Goldenthal and Salma Hayek (5 mnutes)
10. Salma's Recording Session - she sings "La Bruja" (near 3 minutes)
11. Bringing Frida Kahlo's Life And Art To Film: A Walk Through The Real Locations.
Felipe Fernandez talks of his painters, designers and architects who recreated Frida and Diego's home "The Blue House".
They did the courtyard, the vivid wall colours, the cacti, her bed with the mirror above, framed Communist imagery.
Later in the film they recreate Diego's modernist home where the couple hosted Trotsky etc (near 6 minutes)
12. Portrait Of An Artist - clips from the film mixed with interviews with Julie Taymor, Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd and two Producers (14 minutes)
13. "Amoeba Proteus" - Visual FX Piece (near 10 minutes)
14. "The Brothers Quay" - Visual FX Piece (1 minute)
15. Bookmarks - allows you to bookmark portions of the film
Having usually less highbrow tastes, I didn't think Frida would be my cup of tea. And yet, by 20 minutes in, I found myself utterly captivated by this fast-moving and vibrant depiction of the remarkable life of Frida Kahlo.
The other reviewer has been admirably comprehensive regarding the blu-ray's contents, so I'll limit this to my overall feelings. Whilst there are no sub-standard performances whatsoever in this movie, the pairing of Hayek and Molina was truly inspired. They look the part (just check out the Wikipedia page for photos of Kahlo and Rivera). They ARE the part. Two talented artistic souls, with wild free spirits (and libidos to match!), guarantee there is never a dull moment. There is a lot of humour along the way, but it's often blunted with heartache and poignancy. There's some quite profound exploration into human relationships and the subtleties between fidelity and loyalty. The main message of the film though seemed to be to seize the day and squeeze every last drop of life from the time allocated to us.
Blu-ray presentation is exceptional, with spectacular use of vibrant colour and some inventive camera angles. Surround sound (5.1 DTS) is used to very good effect too, with some very evocative music. Plenty of extras - audio commentary, extended interviews and some technical notes, complete the package.
A truly uplifting film, that inspired me to research Frida Kahlo's fascinating life and work.
Artist Frida Kahlo's paintings are a visual diary of her life--as a revolutionary, as the wife of Diego Rivera, and as a woman in constant pain. Injured in a bus accident as a young woman, she endured over thirty surgeries, unremitting physical agony, and injuries which left her unable to bear a child, but she also endured the pain of a notoriously unfaithful husband. As she once told him, "There were two big accidents in my life. You are the worst."
Salma Hayek, as Frida, is both tough and vulnerable, showing Frida's spontaneous, physical approach to life and her passionate dedication--to Diego, to her hard-edged paintings, and to communist philosophy. Alfred Molina, as Diego, a man who "belongs only to himself," is warm, funny, often protective, and utterly impossible as a husband. An established muralist with many commissions when he first meets her, he encourages her artistic goals, explaining, "I paint what I see--the world outside. You paint from your heart." Married, divorced, and later remarried, Frida and Diego, as we see them here, are both mutually supportive and mutually destructive.
Hayden Herrera's biography of Frida is the basis for the Clancy Sigal and Diane Lake screenplay, which emphasizes Frida's pain and her ways of dealing with it--through drink, her work, and through sex, with both women and men, including Leon Trotsky, in exile in Mexico. The settings from the 1920s and 1930s are brilliantly colorful--a bright blue house with a garden of peacocks, monkeys, and colored birds; the worksites of Rivera's passionate and brightly colored murals; and locations in Mexico City and New York. Lively Mexican music plays throughout, with new music (Elliot Goldenthall) inserted to unify scenes, the piano music being especially memorable. The cinematography (Roderigo Prieto) takes full advantage of the architecture and the color, which is enhanced by the vibrant clothing, jewelry, and hair adornments worn by Frida.
Director Julie Taymor features many of Frida's paintings, and some of Diego Rivera's murals throughout, using them to connect the artists' inner and outer worlds. On several occasions, however, there are jarring intrusions of cartoons and nightmares--people walk through a photograph, which shifts to black and white; King Kong in a film morphs into Diego Rivera; a trip to New York becomes a walk through travel brochures. Unfortunately, the style of these vignettes is so unexpected and foreign to the tone of this film that they feel intrusive, even arch. Hayek and Molina are outstanding in conveying the torment of Frida and Diego Rivera, however, and the film, overall, is a fascinating study of two artists living through the tumult of history and each other. Mary Whipple
on 10 November 2011
This DVD about the life of the painter Frida Kahlo and her on off relationship with Rivera Diego, ( portrayed by the brilliant Salma Hayek) opened my eyes wide to what brilliant acting, and good directing (Julie Taymor ).... can make of a story.
Salma plays the character with the passion and emotion that Frida put into her all too short 45 years. (a terrible accident that left her in pain, her painting, her bisexuality, the men in her life, her connection with Trotsky, amputation, alcoholism). The direction for this film is superb, faultless. It is vivid with the sounds, colours and sites of Mexico and New York. It is also a 'weepy', a comedy, a documentary, all in one, as well as a gentle lesson in art and history. As soon as the film finished I watched it again the following night, and I am sharing it with four friends tonight after dinner. You dont have to be interested in art to enjoy this movie. Dont hesitate a moment longer, just buy it!
on 15 January 2005
This film is a beautiful telling of the Frida Khalo story, a much misunderstood Mexican artist of the early 20th Century.
Frida is played exquisitely so as to truly convey the artists story, compassion, intelligence and great love and understanding of her own culture.
For me, Khalo's work is too often dismissed as quirky, troublesome and surreal. In this brilliantly worked film both director and leading lady work hard to connect the artisits life story, beliefs, passions and trauma's to her great body of work, with empathy and understanding.
The evolution of her art is sensitively juxtaposed agaisnt the major themes of her short life. Her work is seen for what it is, both competant and skillful and contextually rich with the courage to convey her emotional exploration of identity, belonging, dissapointment, greif, development and growth.
Frida is passionate and the film is so in tune with it's subject so as display Khalo the woman with great passion and sensitivity.
This film cleverly escapes the art world labels that have misrepresented Khalo, her art and her culture, for far too long.
The cinematography is stunning, particularly the surreal imagery which is so cleverly played as to ignite the stories richness and flavour in the way the paintings intended.
on 21 October 2010
Frida is a phenomenal epic. It doesn't illustrate the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. It draws you into that life. Visually and emotionally arresting, such satisfying films are rare to come by.
Young, vivacious Frida Kahlo is crippled in a bus accident. But even though her body turns on her, her spirit comes to life and she resolves to live life to its fullest. Her two greatest companions are the canvas and her husband, passionate and communistic playboy Diego Rivera. Their life together is not so much a rocky road but one littered with mountains. Slowly, her body gets more of a burden as well. Yet through all of that, her art keeps her strong.
Frida is such a joy to behold because it invites the audience along to experience all of the aforementioned. Not once are we reminded of the fact that this is a movie. This is the potential of cinema realised; to draw the audience into the world presented before them. Frida Kahlo not only creates her paintings, but we are somehow drawn into the world of the paintings themselves. So we get to explore Frida Kahlo's mind as well as her surroundings, and not only are we dazzled by this tempestuous woman, we also understand her pain and, even more amazingly, her art as a consequence.
Salma Hayek is utterly phenomenal in the leading role. She IS Frida Kahlo, not Salma Hayek portraying her. She even looks the part so well that the film often draws the audience into her paintings, through Salma Hayek, and it's hard to spot the difference. Alfred Molina is stunning as her impossible significant other Diego. All of the cast deliver stellar performances, but these two carry the whole ensemble on their shoulders, and they do it with grace.
Boy is this a gorgeous film! We don't just see the lavish parties, we take part in them. There is such a feisty passion pumping throughout this entire picture. There is a rich use of warm, delicious colours. Very often, the gap between the world and Frida Kahlo's art diminishes, with spectacular results. This is one wild story, and the two-hour running time feels like it passes in no time at all. Frida is a triumph of a film, a spicy and delicious dish.
on 19 September 2005
The bright colours that fill the frames of this film are
a joy to see and the lovely latin music,and songs in Spanish help emphasise to the viewer that this is a tale about two great Mexican artists,(Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera).It is said that art mirrors real life and Frida Kahlo expressed the suffering of herself and those around her in vivid detail.The film manages to show this and also gives a good account of how varied and
unusual the work of Diego Rivera was.There is a lot of political debate between characters but this is never allowed to take precedence over the fact that this is a movie about
creative,artistic geniuses,who,like their works of art,were
flawed but always interesting.
on 6 December 2011
I loved this movie so much for several reasons: first of all, it is Salma Hayek's ambition which got it produced. She wanted to tell Frida's story and let the people know more about the life of such an interesting artist. Secondly, I am a big fan of Frida Kahlo's paintings and was always fascinated by her life and her way of expressing her pain and sorrow through her paintings. The movie is a brilliant combination of colours and emotions, with a soundtrack to complement the action, and the actors are very credible. Salma really transformed herself into Frida, and the actor playing her lover and husband, Diego Riviera, is also great in his part. Ashley Judd also makes a magical appearance and the dance between her and Frida expresses the sensuality and openness of Frida's personality.
The film doesn't sugar-coat any of the tragic moments in the artist's life: her accident, her spontaneous abortion, her husband's cheating, and her affair with Trotsky.
I loved the whole movie and cannot find any fault. A definite total of 5 stars for it!
on 2 January 2004
I'm not terribly familiar with Frida Kahlo, I'd seen some of her work and knew a bit about her life, but that was it.
All I can say is how happy I am that I gave this film a chance.
Some scenes in this film are truly hearthbreaking, some terribly funny and some very beautiful indeed. This film really answers the good picture cliché: it makes you laugh and it makes you cry... you are transported into the world and mind of this amazing woman/artiste and in the end you have to step out of it again with immense reluctance. The directing by Julie Taymor was everything I was used to from her, a mix of artistic surrealism and emotional realism.
The acting deserves recognition as well as Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina and Geoffry Rush were all fantastic. Somewhere in the film I actually forgot I was watching these actors and felt like I was watching real people, which is a rare thing for me.
The music during the film and especially in the end was outstanding and just added to the realism of the time and place in which it all happened.
I give it five stars.
There is just nothing I didn't like about this film.
Absolutely worth it!
on 27 April 2014
I think not.
She may have been an interesting painter but this overly simplistic biopic does not begin to capture the complexity and contradictions of Frida's character. Her affair with Trotsky in front of his long-suffering wife did nothing to stop her supporting Stalin, long after one of his agents put an axe through her former lover's skull.
What is interesting for me is the way in which she assiduously creates a personality-cult around herself - long before Andy Warhol made that a dominant feature of his work.
Sadly, Frida's fans increase daily (look at Pinterest!) but a real understanding of this remarkable woman gets lost en route towards her deification. This film does little to redress that trend.