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Any word on FRIDA? (1 Viewer)

Edwin Pereyra

Senior HTF Member
Oct 26, 1998
Having just seen this one, I would have to agree with the criticisms leveled by the Mexican film critics. This is definitely an Americanization of a Mexican national afraid to be labeled as a Mexican film.
Real Women Have Curves felt more “Mexican” as it told the story of certain Mexican-Americans living in East L.A. than Frida, even when the latter spends most of its running time set in Mexico. Spanish is treated as a second language to these Mexican characters. Certain dialogue in Spanish that should have been subtitled weren’t thereby losing some of the film’s narrative impact.
Julie Taymor is more interested in giving us rich visual imagery to tell the life of Frida Kahlo instead of a compelling character portrait. In a way she provided the right visuals to a film about real life artists and their passion about painting. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Salma Hayek is asked to carry an entire film on her shoulders. Luckily, there’s Alfred Molina to help her out. For a film about Frida Kahlo, it is the story and life of her husband Diego Rivera that is more interesting and is remembered more.
Hayek is unable to portray the tormented soul of Frida both physically and emotionally – the former as she suffers through chronic physical pain throughout her entire life as a result of a tragic accident and the latter which involves the emotional ups and downs as a result of her husband’s infidelity.
As a low budget film I can understand asking the assistance of other friends who are in the film business to help out. But why do we have to see Ashley Judd, another American, with an Italian-accented English?
In the end, the film is not a total loss as it can be enjoyed at the level Julie Taymor had envisioned it. She always wanted for this film to be focused more on the heroic love story between Rivera and Kahlo. To a certain extent, it works at that level. If that’s the case then I agree that the film should have been titled “Frida and Diego.”
Programming note: Diego Luna of Y Tu Mama Tambien appears in an extended cameo.

Darren H

Second Unit
May 10, 2000
Here's my response to Frida. http://www.longpauses.com/frida.htm
Julie Taymor's Frida is a better-than-average 2-hour biopic, evidencing many of the typical strengths and weaknesses of the genre — a fascinating life told too quickly that borders, uncomfortably at times, on hagiography. Beginning in 1953, on the day of Frida Kahlo's first formal exhibition in Mexico, the film then jumps to 1922, when the artist was a precocious 15-year-old, shocking her family with her outrageous behavior and rogering her boyfriend in a bedroom closet. The remainder of the film weaves chronologically through her life, ending with a remarkable image of her deathbed in 1954. In between, we watch as she develops a complex, lifelong relationship with fellow Mexican artist, Diego Rivera — played to perfection by Alfred Molina — and as she flirts with political radicalism, artistic inspiration, and an assortment of lovers.
Frida is a film about a significant Modernist art movement; it's about love and loyalty and marriage; it's about Communism, Leon Trotsky, Josephine Baker, and Nelson Rockefeller; it's about the struggle for personal, political, and artistic integrity; but mostly Frida is about Salma Hayek's body. It's about her washboard midriff, her flawless skin, and, perhaps inevitably, her bombshell breasts. It's about her lips (in a lock with Ashley Judd's). It's about her 5' 2" frame (dwarfed by Alfred Molina's). It's about her eyebrows, her legs and feet, her vagina, and the small of her back. It's about her brown eyes and her brown skin and her black hair. And I wonder now if a biopic of Frida Kahlo could be shot in any other way.
While still a student, Kahlo was involved in a bus accident that left her back and legs broken and her abdomen impaled. The emergency procedures intended to save her life launched a decades-long struggle through corrective operations, chronic pain, and, significantly, several miscarriages, all of which are chronicled in brutal and explicit detail in her often autobiographical work. In a move that is at times remarkable, at others painfully self-conscious, Taymor brings several of Kahlo's self-portraits to life. Doing so offers us something that is lacking, I think, in Hayek's performance: access to the artist's troubled, fearless, and (in the first-wave sense) "feminine" subjectivity. The most effective instance comes near the end when, after watching Kahlo be lashed by her doctor into a back brace, we are transported into her painting, The Broken Column (1944). The tears in the portrait meld in the film with the tears of the artist and with the drips of her brush, joining in a single image a recurring message of the film: as Diego tells his wife, "I paint what I see; you paint what you feel."
And what Kahlo feels is always inextricably bound — psychologically, politically, and quite literally — to her body, which is one of the many reasons that she has been appropriated in recent decades as an icon of sorts by feminist scholars. A painter who might be compared to, say, Kate Chopin or Virginia Woolf, she approaches her medium from (excuse the jargon) a gynocentric perspective: documenting the particularly female experience from a particularly feminine subjectivity. Which is exactly why I find myself, a day later, still struggling to reconcile my ambivalence over Taymor's treatment of her star.
It would be dishonest, of course, to elide the details of Kahlo's physical condition or those of her sex life — both of which are absolutely key to understanding Kahlo, the artist — but somewhere in the process (and it's quite possible that Hayek's much publicized struggle to "get this film made" is a factor) Taymor chose to charge much of the film with an often dissonant eroticism. The effect is created by a host of smaller decisions: the omission of Kahlo's facial hair in all but a few shots, the framing of close-ups so as to include what could only be described as Hayek's "heaving bosom," the deliberate effort of the camera to show what had already been more effectively implied. I'm afraid that, in this age when images are inevitably captured from films, stripped of their context, and posted on the Internet, Frida will only become more and more about Hayek's body in time and that much of the artist's message will be distorted in the process. I only wish I could offer an alternative approach. Let me know if you stumble upon (or wish to share) a feminist response to the film. It could get interesting.

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