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"Acid and tender, hard as steel, fine as a butterfly's wing",
This review is from: Frida [DVD]  (DVD)
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