FRIDA

Colours heal the pain

"I HOPE the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return," Mexican artist Frida Kahlo wrote in her diary, a few days before she died.
This movie about eccentric feminist icon Frida, who was able to use her pain as inspiration for her impressively controversial paintings, has been a long time coming. It was a vanity project of ambitious celebrities (Madonna and Jennifer Lopez among them) before landing in the hands of actress and co-producer Salma Hayek and director Julie Taymor.


TRAGICALLY artistic Frida.
photo: SPI International

"I HOPE the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return," Mexican artist Frida Kahlo wrote in her diary, a few days before she died.

This movie about eccentric feminist icon Frida, who was able to use her pain as inspiration for her impressively controversial paintings, has been a long time coming. It was a vanity project of ambitious celebrities (Madonna and Jennifer Lopez among them) before landing in the hands of actress and co-producer Salma Hayek and director Julie Taymor.

Frida was Hayek's dream role and her evocation of the artist extends well beyond the Frida's trademark unibrow and bright dresses as she shows us the essence of a woman whose life was shortened by pain and cut up by her husband's infidelity. But Frida all the while managed to keep her pride. Hayek has a feel for the character at all stages of her life and portrays Frida as a rebel teen, sexual adventurer, political crusader and devoted lover.

Taymor shows us Frida's life and portrays her passionate relationship with Diego Rivera, the well-known muralist and communist, in an enchanting retro style. Too bad that the movie makes much of Diego's increasingly outrageous acts of infidelity, while merely touching on Frida's lesbian affairs.

In the opening scene Frida is on her deathbed, heading for her first exhibition opening. Earlier in her life she was involved in a horrible accident when riding the trolley. Young Frida shatters her spinal column and other bones leaving her near death. Her broken body is shown covered with blood and gold dust in a truly breathtaking sequence. Through the long recovery period, which includes painful surgeries, Frida turns to art to liberate her mind from the pain.

Her relationship with Diego sharpened Frida's political opinions, and the two got married at the Communist Party's headquarters. Guests include characters played by Antonio Banderas and Ashley Judd - the tango partner who reveals Frida's bisexuality in a steamy scene. As the amount of tequila in the blood of the wedding guests rises, the camera of Rodrigo Prieto moves, becoming more and more drunk with emotion. Despite Frida's later tryst with Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush), the movie fails to explain the political situation.

The art direction and special effects are remarkable throughout, and in a number of scenes, paintings and real life blend seamlessly. Frida is a story about a woman who loved life and partied hard. The film is as full of bright colours and dark moments as are her paintings.

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