Review by Michael Jacobson
Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Valeria Golina, Ashley Judd,
Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton
Director: Julie Taymor
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: June 10, 2003
asking you to marry me.”
don’t need rescuing, Diego.”
is a movie
that’s the result of a remarkable blend of two unique female artists’
talents. One is the director, Julie
Taymor. The other is, of course,
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (Hayek). Both
have a singular boldness to their visions and a fearlessness in expression that
bring strange and beautiful images alive before our eyes. This project was a marriage made in heaven.
watching this film, I knew very little about Frida Kahlo, but the best biopics
are films that engross you without any prior knowledge.
And Frida was such a vibrant, loving, creative, tragic creature that I
was emotionally invested for the duration.
and raised in Mexico City, Frida was a funny, spirited young girl whose world
was forever changed by a horrific trolley accident. It nearly killed her, but she survived; it nearly paralyzed
her, but she walked again. It left
her in terrific pain for the rest of her days, and complications from it did
eventually claim her life, but this movie is not one that mourns her death so
much as celebrate her life.
convalescing, she took to art as a means of coping with her fears and pains.
Her talent amazed everyone around her, so she sought advice from
Mexico’s most acclaimed artist, Diego Rivera (Molina), an older, rounder,
womanizing, gleefully pompous figure who also happened to be a loudly outspoken
Communist. He saw much in Frida both as an artist and as a woman.
Promising to be loyal but admitting up front he could never be faithful,
the two became lovers, and eventually husband and wife.
found it easy to stand by her man in his artistic triumphs and failures as he
toured America to great acclaim for his talents and criticism for his open
Communist beliefs…in fact, he was even commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller
(Norton) to paint a mural on the great wall of the Rockefeller Center, only to
have it torn down when Diego refused to remove a portrait of Lenin he included
in the piece. But despite his
warnings and her attempts to believe that fidelity wasn’t as important as
love, his continual affairs took an emotional tear on her…much of her hurt and
frustration ended up beautifully expressed in her paintings.
Frida enjoyed her extramarital freedoms as well, sharing the bedroom companies
of such celebrities as Josephine Baker and exiled Communist statesman Leon
Trotsky (Rush). And while both
Frida and Diego purported to be above petty jealousies in their marriage, the
truth is, it almost destroyed them.
it didn’t. Though Frida’s life
was over much too quickly at age 46, she and Diego found it in themselves to
renew their commitment to one another which lasted until her untimely passing.
And though Diego received the lion’s share of artistic acclaim in their
lifetimes, Frida’s unique, heartfelt and passionate visions would later
eclipse his in the world of modern art. Many
Mexican women count Frida amongst their heroines.
Hayek admittedly was one. This film
was really born from her love and passion for the life of Frida Kahlo, and as
one of the producers, she lingered and worried over every detail like a mother.
Her work ended up not only as a celebration of Frida, but a triumph for
herself as well, not the least of which was her wonderfully realized and Oscar
nominated performance in the title role. As
an actress, Ms. Hayek has never been more viable or vibrant.
supporting cast deserves mention, too, as this movie was possibly last year’s
most impressive ensemble piece. The
always wonderful character actor Alfred Molina brought Diego to life without
reservation or judgment, leaving the impression of an embraceably flawed human
on the screen to counteract Frida’s passions.
Other terrific actors in small roles include the aforementioned Edward
Norton and Geoffrey Rush, along with the likes of Ashley Judd and Antonio
again, Ms. Kahlo’s isn’t the only artistic vision to celebrate with this
film. Julie Taymor, who brought The
Lion King to life on Broadway and made one of the most audacious feature
film debuts ever with Titus continues to prove herself as a unique and
uncompromising visionary with endless creativity and courage.
She’s unafraid, even in a biographical film, to use unconventional
means in order to express Frida’s feelings.
Some of these include seeing her paintings come to life, a lively
postcard montage of New York, and the haunting visions of Frida in the hospital
after her accident. In two major
features, Ms. Taymor has already proven herself an artist of distinguishable
style capable of putting her own creative stamp on a project that didn’t
initially originate with her.
for all this talk of creativity and artist merit, I don’t want to overlook one
major point, and that is Frida is simply splendid entertainment from
start to finish. It has a wonderful
story to tell peopled with wonderful characters against a wonderful backdrop of
a city. This is the kind of movie
where you don’t just learn about the subject, but feel you’ve experienced
every joy and heartache along with them. Frida
Kahlo was a remarkable woman, and this movie celebrates her with passion.
the opening shot of Frida’s courtyard, I knew this disc was going to be
something special. This anamorphic
offering from Miramax captures and expresses all the imagery from Frida’s life
with rich, glowing detail and consistently vibrant coloring.
Certain scenes take on a sense of heightened realism, either because of
the size of the palate or the narrowness of it (a hospital scene is made even
more frightening by its monochromatic hues).
Occasionally, there’s almost too much going on, and a scene or two come
across just a tad over saturated, but that’s a minor complaint.
This DVD captures the integrity of Julie Taymor’s vision with gorgeous
5.1 audio is a bit limited owing to the largely dialogue-oriented nature of the
piece, but Elliot Goldenthal’s beautiful, Oscar winning score is a superb
plus. Spanish guitars trill through
the speakers over lush orchestral arrangements that will leave music lovers
smiling. All spoken words are clean
and clear, and the .1 channel is used sparingly but effectively when needed.
is a fully loaded double disc edition. Disc
One includes a conversation with Salma Hayek, who talks about what the project
meant to her, the difficulties in bringing it to life, her performance, how the
film grew to something bigger than she had ever envisioned, and of course, her
pleasure with its success. There
are also two commentary tracks: Julie
Taymor discusses the filmmaking process in detail, including working with the
actors, the locations, her director of photography Rodrigo Prieto and more,
while Elliot Goldenthal offers selected scene musical comments.
There are also some sneak peeks at other coming Disney titles.
Two contains everything else, including two interviews with Julie Taymor, one by
Bill Moyers and one Q&A session at the American Film Institute.
Several production featurettes showcase a musical interview with Chavela
Vargas and a look at singer Lila Downs who provides vocals for the film, two
visual effects pieces, “The Vision, Design & Music of Frida”
featurette, a look at the locations of Frida’s life and a portrait of her as
an artist, some printed facts about her, and even a look at Salma Hayek
recording her song for the soundtrack CD. All
in all, a full and enjoyable package.