Sunday, January 12, 2014


Directed by Julie Taymor.
2002. Rated R, 123 minutes.
Valeria Golino
Diego Luna
Mía Maestro
Saffron Burrows

The life and times of real life Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (Hayek). We meet her as a young woman spying on an extra-marital affair by Diego Rivera (Molina), her country’s most famous artist. A short while later, Frida is badly injured when the trolley she is riding in has an accident. Doctors tell her she may never walk again. Of course she does, and it indeed affects her the rest of her life, but this isn’t the story. The story actually begins with her discovering her passion and ability for painting while confined to her bed. Soon, she seeks the counsel of none other than Rivera whom, if you couldn’t tell, is as renowned for his womanizing as he is for his artwork. The two embark on a tumultuous lifelong love affair.

In the titular role, Salma Hayek is an unstoppable force of nature. She emanates an irresistible flame that torches the screen. Aided by a prominent unibrow, Hayek is simply impossible to look away from. It is a magnificent performance starting with the very first time we see her. Since one great turn deserves another, what Hayek accomplishes is certainly complemented, and might not be possible, without the work of Alfred Molina as Rivera. He is essentially the perfect trampoline for her to bounce off. Seemingly everything she does is in reaction to him, even when he is not in the scene. To his credit, Molina doesn’t wither in her storms. He plays Diego as a large man, both literally and figuratively, with enormous pride and appetites. This isn’t a guy who curls up fetally when his woman is on a tirade. He constantly reminds her, and us, that she knew who he was right from the start.

Along the way, director Julie Taymor adds some very nice touches that are nods to artists in general, and these two in particular. At times, characters themselves fade in or out of a painting. Other times, Frida’s work literally comes to life. On a few occasions, even less conventional things happen. It’s a wonderful way of adding layers to the film without endless exposition. Showing is more powerful than telling. The film does a great deal of showing this way and manages to do so without subtracting from the idea that we are watching a movie about real people.

One area where the movie doesn’t do enough showing or telling is in regards to how she came to be so important to the Mexican people. We’re told often how good her work is, but just piles up in a back room of her house. Diego often lets well connected people give it a look. Eventually, this lands her a gig in Paris. Next thing we know she’s suddenly an icon in her native land. We never see any growth in her status. We are just told it is.

Even if the movie could have done a better job at explaining the public side of her life, it so thoroughly and zestfully goes over the private side, we can’t help being enthralled. Here is a woman with so much passion it rubs off on everyone around her, including us in the audience. We lover her regardless of whether or not we are into art or agree with her politics. This is the towering achievement of Frida.

No comments:

Post a Comment