Kahlo the Wild
Film review by: Witney Seibold



            “Frida,” the new film by Julie Taymor and starring Salma Hayek, is a beautiful, unusual film filled with passionate and talented people. Since Frida Kahlo, the film’s subject, was a passionate, talented and unusual woman, this is only fitting. Many biopics depict their subject usually as having a rise to fame, a tragic flaw, and a fall from grace. Death or redemption ensues. This has always seemed suspect to me. While that formula has made for some wonderful films (most recently, “Auto Focus”), it has always struck me as false. People don’t have story arcs. People have lives. Frida, however, is able to find the line between honest depiction of life, and wonderful coherent entertainment.

            “Frida” follows Kahlo’s life from the early 1920s when she was a precocious schoolgirl who occasionally dressed as a man, and had sex with her boyfriend in the closet. Follows her through her rocky relationship, one fraught with infidelity, with Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). Follows her to her death in 1954 by injuries she sustained in a childhood bus accident. We see her painting, having affairs with men, women, and no less than Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush). We also understand a little better the surreal and often gory images of her paintings.

            Julie Taymor is a visual director of the highest order. Her underrated “Titus” was one of the most visually interesting and viscerally challenging films I have seen. She has now honed her film skills further with her second film. We are shown Frida living, quite literally, inside her paintings. We see not simply the inspiration for Kahlo’s surreal works, but we live in them alongside the troubled artist. By doing so, we live half inside her mind, understanding her. Never once seeing her as a curiosity, but a heroine who has survived the challenges of living.

            Hayek plays Frida as wild and even bizarre (she is shown at one point, painting a live portrait of her miscarriage), but never out-of-control, or dangerous or curious. Frida Kahlo was a great woman who lived and loved in a strange world. This film properly honors her.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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