A grand film fit for a grand woman. We look back at a movie directed by a woman who used to have a credible career before that Spider-Man musical. All in all, a solid and beautiful film.
Having read a bit of Frida on Frida, I believe Salma Hayek captured Frida’s personality quite well. Under the guise of Frida’s unibrow and bright wardrobe, she exudes a great radiance. Julie Taymor herself captured Frida and her life beautifully. Not to mention the incredibly complicated relationship between her and Diego Rivera.
When I saw this years ago, I do not remember wincing when I saw Frida lying on the bus’ floor impaled. Maybe my mind wanted to protect me. By the way, even though I will not mention where the handrail impaled Frida, it still hurts for me to write it. Taymor does direct this scene well, although the worker’s gold material spraying her resembled a cheap attempt at dramatic symbolism. It also cracked me up the way Taymor shot Frida emerging out of her butterfly covered body cast with an up close view of Salma topless. In the space of an eight second shot (I counted) Julie definitely walked the line between gratuitous nudity and necessity to show Frida’s growth as a person.
I did have one complaint. At the beginning during the aftermath of Frida’s bus accident, the movie gives us a Tim Burton style dream sequence. This did not feel right. It felt out-of-place and from what I know, does not reference any of Frida’s art. Thankfully, this happens only once. The next surreal sequence that shows a collage of Frida and Diego in New York with them reenacting a scene from King Kong.
I did enjoy the cameos of David Siqueiros and Gabriel Orozco, the other two muralists besides Diego. It showed what kind of world Frida and Diego lived in. I also enjoyed the portrayal of the line that Diego walked as promoter of the proletariat and providing art for government. Furthermore, if the movie holds truth on the way people interacted with Diego and how he warns them of his personality and they still feel shocked by his actions, it left me baffled. It made me go, “Why did you stay with him anyway?” This goes for the two captains of industry who commissioned him, and Frida who married him despite warnings of infidelity. On the other hand, thanks to some nuanced (in my opinion) portrayals, Taymor does not give easy answers to all of this.
The final verdict? I recommend checking this movie out, just to see Julie Taymor’s talent before the whole Spider-Man debacle. For her sake, I hope she at least learned something from that and would come back to making good movies such as this one and Titus Andronicus. Finally, if this film had any historical errors, I did not see any. I looked around for sites that pointed out any inaccuracies, but I have yet to find something I can trust to link it. However, this does not stop me from enjoying the film.
Artist at Work: From doodling on her body cast to painting on large canvases, Frida never stops working. On Diego Rivera, we see him paint from the very first scene he shows up in.
Art Reenactments: We see scenes of people imitating portraits and subjects that reference Frida’s future paintings.
(Update: I removed some things. On an earlier update, I rewrote a sentence.)
ETA 1-8-20: Rewrote a sentence.