Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: A conversation with Salma Hayek; Feature
commentary with director Julie Taymor; Feature commentary with
composer Elliot Goldenthal.
MEXICAN artist, Frida Kahlo, has become one of the worlds
most coveted female painters, consistently smashing international
auction records, and becoming the first Hispanic woman to be honoured
with a US postage stamp.
Yet her remarkable achievements were borne out of tremendous
suffering as, at the age of 18, she was involved in a debilitating
bus accident which irreversibly changed her life.
Frida was found, half naked, among the wreckage, bathed in blood
and gold dust, and impaled on a metal rod. Her spinal column,
ribs, pelvis and collarbone were shattered, her right foot was
crushed and her right leg, crippled years earlier by polio, was
broken in a dozen places.
The metal rod which impaled her also caused a deep abdominal
wound, leaving her unable to have children.
Throughout her life, the injuries she suffered as a result of
this accident constantly troubled her, and she was forced to endure
long periods in immobilizing plaster casts and corsets, traction
and, at times, barbaric experimental operations.
Yet her spirit remained strong and, so long as she could continue
her painting, Frida frequently rose above her predicament to triumph
against adversity - living as colourful a life as many of her
Salma Hayek, who has subsequently been Oscar-nominated for her
portrayal of the artist, affectionately describes her courage
to be unique as one of the many things that inspired her
to make a film about her life.
The movie which results, directed by Julie Taymor and produced
by Hayek, is a true labour of love; a rich and passionate tribute
to Frida Kahlo, which also takes in her complex and enduring relationship
with her mentor and husband, Diego Rivera, as well as her illicit
affair with Leon Trotsky and her provocative romantic entanglements
It is little wonder, therefore, that there are times when the
story feels a little episodic, or when certain key moments appear
lost, particularly in its depiction of the extent of Fridas
physical suffering, which frequently takes a back seat to the
emotional torment she endured as the result of her relationship
Yet while viewers are left with the impression that there was
undoubtedly more to Fridas life than what appears on screen,
the film does succeed in paying a fitting tribute to the achievements
of the artist and is graced with some terrific performances.
Principal among them is Hayek, of course, whose energy and enthusiasm
for the project is unbridled. Playing down the good looks for
which she is better-known, Hayek delivers a gutsy firecracker
of a performance, which has rightly been rewarded with an Oscar
Her relationship with Alfred Molinas gluttonous womaniser,
Diego, is suitably spiky (flitting between love and hate), while
her affair with Geoffrey Rushs exiled Russian leader, Trotsky,
is also nicely observed.
The presence of big name players such as Ashley Judd, Antonio
Banderas and Edward Norton in showy cameos, in truth, adds little
to proceedings, although the latter is credited with helping to
refine the script when Frida and Diego head to America.
But Taymors eye-catching visual style is another plus point,
helping to infuse the film with elements of Fridas artistic
creativity and bringing much of her work to life. It is a device
which helps to keep things fresh and which serves to show the
inspirations behind much of her work.
Yet it is Hayek who leaves the lasting impression and who remains
the main reason for seeing the film. Her energy and enthusiasm
for the project translates well to the screen, making this a personal
tour-de-force, and a lasting tribute to a remarkable life story.