View Full Version : Frida

John DeSando
12-01-2002, 02:50 PM
Any attempt to make a biopic of an artist is bound to be imperfect because I always want immediate access to the source of inspiration and complete art deconstruction of the artist's important pieces. Neither is possible in a film and may not be desirable.

Like "Evita," "Frida" is a romantic treatment of a flawed but immensely interesting Mexican icon. Frida Kahlo, played by Salma Hayek, could paint charming pain better than almost anyone else in the first half of the 20th century. Her inspirational pain inflictor was Diego Rivera, the premiere Mexican painter whose government murals in Mexico and the US and leadership in the Communist Party made him both notorious and irresistible to women.

Hayek underplays her painter, letting us appreciate her gleeful and fearful journey through a debilitating bus accident and a destructive marriage. Throw in a little bisexuality and infidelity for the flavor. But the grandest artist of this film may be the director, Julie Taymor of "Lion King" fame. The colorful country has finally received the fullest measure of brilliant visualization and passionate living. Sets, costumes and the entire mise en scene are a palette of endless pleasure for the director.

As in the case of "Evita," some will criticize the lack of real character depth and the episodic timeline approach--to them I say you are right, but I ask those critics to think if any other artist biography has ever done as much as "Frida" to delight us intellectually and visually. Consider, if you will, the opening scene of the ailing Frida in 1953 carried on her bed to her one-woman show in Mexico or Frida and Diego's pact to be `not faithful, but loyal' and you will get some idea of extraordinary lives and the vibrant movie about them.

12-01-2002, 03:33 PM
From what I heard, Salma Hayek deserves much of the credit for this movie ever being made. As the greatest artist, I would have to lend my weight to the risk and the devotion that Hayek undertook to single-handedly getting this movie off the ground, getting it made, and into theaters. This a great tribute to her as a woman, a professional artist who went to extraordinary means to see something as important as this movie being made.

Chris Knipp
12-02-2002, 05:49 PM
"Frida" provides us with a delightful spectacle, and I loved Hayek's gorgeous (and continuallly varied) Frida "do's" in every scene and all the colorful characters who come and go. Alfred Molina is a fine actor who does not fail us here. Hayek's dedication to her role and to the film shows in the energy she brings to her performance and she is beautiful to look at. Visually, Julie Taymor is a genius and this is a finer epic than "Titus." However, there are some artist biopics that are equally if not more intellectually stimulating and even more visually imaginative, and two of these are by Julian Schnabel. "Basquiat" is an underrated triumph in this area: Jeffrey Wright is a remarkable actor who deserves to be much better known and his Basquiat is the best thing he’s done on film. "Basquiat" has magic moments of total originality, and the device of making many of the people intentional caricatures of their originals (David Bowie’s Warhol best of all) is an excellent way of avoiding the conventional mold. “Before Night Falls” is more self-indulgent, but it has great freedom and panache. When we have to watch Edward Norton as Rockefeller and Jeffrey Rush as Trotsky and nod approvingly, we should know we are in a bit of trouble. I thought it odd that the movie forgot completely about Frida Kahlo's life of pain at times, and had her dance and walk normally, then jumping back to the pain when it remembered to do so: there's a flaw in the writing there. Nonetheless I enjoyed “Frida” and am happy that it was made. It has some fine moments and many lovely images.