Frida

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Rating: R

Starring:
Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo
Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera
Valeria Golino as Lupe Marín
Mía Maestro as Cristina Kahlo
Roger Rees as Guillermo Kahlo
Diego Luna as Alejandro ‘Alex’
Patricia Reyes Spíndola as Matilde Kahlo
Margarita Sanz as Natalia Trotsky
Geoffrey Rush as Leon Trotsky
Loló Navarro as Nanny
Ashley Judd as Tina Modotti
Antonio Banderas as David Alfaro Siqueiros
Edward Norton as Nelson Rockefeller
Saffron Burrows as Gracie

Special Features:
Theatrical trailer(s)

Disc 1:

Feature film with commentary by director Julie Taymor

Selected scenes commentary with composer Elliot Goldenthal

A conversation with Salma Hayek

Disc 2:

American Film Institute Q&A with director Julie Taymor

Bill Moyers interview with Julie Taymor

Chavela Vargas interview

The voice of Lila Downs

The vision of Frida: with Rodrigo Prieto and Julie Taymor

The design of Frida: with Felipe Fernandez

The music of Frida: with Elliot Goldenthal and Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek’s recording session

Bringing Frida Kahlo’s life and art to film: a walk through real locations

Portrait of an artist

“Amobea Proteus” visual FX

“The Brothers Quay” visual FX

Frida Kahlo facts

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 123 Minutes

Synopsis:
This movie depicts the life of Frida Kahlo, a famous Mexican painter and revolutionary from the early 1900’s.

As a teen in the 1920’s, Frida Kahlo led a carefree life until she was badly hurt in a bus accident. Over many years of recovery and rehabilitation, Frida focused her pain and frustration into learning how to paint. Desiring to help make money for the family, Frida turned to famous painter Diego Rivera to become her mentor. A passionate Communist, Diego takes Frida under his wing. Despite his womanizing ways and failed marriages, he falls for Frida and they marry.

As Diego’s fame spreads beyond Mexico, Frida begins to realize that she can’t change his ways. She continues to develop her own painting while at the same time having her own bisexual affairs to spite Diego. Eventually the two separate and Frida’s painting becomes known throughout the world. It depicts her tragic, pain filled world with bizarre surrealism. But can she reconcile with Diego as her health continues to decline?

“Frida” is rated R for sexuality/nudity and language.

The Movie:
I must admit that this isn’t my kind of movie. The story doesn’t interest me and I’m not really into art house films. I was willing to give it a chance because of the stellar cast and the numerous awards, but in the end it didn’t do anything for me. I recognize an excellent production when I see it, but the final product didn’t suit my personal tastes.

I never quite understood why Frida was so revered in this film. She is promoted as an active Communist with influential friends, but you never see her do anything of political significance (besides provide asylum and sex for Trotsky). Her paintings are shown to be highly popular and revolutionary, but I didn’t see anything special about them. They were rather bizarre and grotesque. Why were they special? Because they expressed her pain? As a human being, Frida openly walked into a bad marriage, she had bizarre bisexual affairs, and didn’t have many other redeeming qualities. How does this make her someone to be respected? About the only admirable thing she did was rise above her physical disabilities to become a famous painter. I’m not quite sure why this deserves a film honoring her.

Director Julie Taymor does, however, make a beautiful film. Every scene in the movie is gorgeous. She also sets up scenes so that they look just like Frida’s original paintings. It’s an impressive visual trick and it helps you appreciate her paintings more when you see the inspiration behind them. Between the fanciful imagery, beautiful backgrounds, and impressive Mexican music, “Frida” is story wrapped in a first rate package. I was disappointed, though, with the gratuitous nudity that Taymor included. While Frida’s affairs were a crucial part of the story, the T&A quickly stopped being for the sake of story and started feeling a bit excessive.

Despite my distaste for the real life woman, I thought Salma Hayek played her perfectly. Armed with a monobrow and mustache, Hayek makes you totally believe she’s Frida. She plays her from a teenager to age 40+ convincingly. Hayek does an excellent job of displaying her joy, sorry, pain, and love. Alfred Molina (who will be playing Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2) is also excellent as Diego. The guy is total slime, but somehow Molina manages to make him sympathetic and friendly. You almost understand why Frida finds him appealing and keeps returning to him. Molina happens to be English, but he makes you really believe he’s Mexican through his fine acting.

The rest of the supporting cast is wonderful. Somehow they managed to get a lot of excellent talent to come in and support this story. Many of the people have ties to Salma Hayek, but they do add a lot to the story with their very presence. Geoffrey Rush is good as Trotsky. He makes this historical figure a real human being and someone approachable. Edward Norton (Hayek’s current boyfriend) plays Rockefeller with all the American gusto and ego you’d expect. Ashley Judd is good as well, but I don’t understand why she was cast as a Mexican. She was not convincing as a Hispanic, despite the fake accent. The rest of the supporting cast is excellent, though.

This is a movie that’s going to work for many other people. It’s obvious because it won several awards (as the DVD cover proclaims). However, if you don’t consider it a real film unless it has explosions, this movie’s not for you.

The Extras:
This DVD is packed with extras. About the only think missing is an actual documentary on Frida herself. There were no pictures of her, galleries of her artwork, or much else. All you get is a short text biography on her. Everything else is about the movie itself. After seeing the movie, I wanted to know more about the artist herself. This doesn’t really deliver.

Feature film with commentary by director Julie Taymor – Taymor provides a lively and informative commentary on the film. She jumps between technical aspects of filming, discussion on the plot, the cast, the crew, and more. It’s an interesting commentary worth listening to and she keeps it running throughout the film.

Selected scenes commentary with composer Elliot Goldenthal – Rather than providing a commentary of the entire film, composer Goldenthal just provides commentary on a few major scenes in the movie. If you’re interested in the music, it’s worth checking out.

A conversation with Salma Hayek – Hayek talks about the filming of the movie, why she did it, and more. She talks about the critical praise for the film as well as meeting Frida’s real life niece.

American Film Institute Q&A with director Julie Taymor – This Q&A session features Taymor discussing the making of the film, Frida herself, the story, and more. It’s more a discussion of the film itself than anything else.

Bill Moyers interview with Julie Taymor – While the AFI feature discussed the film, Moyers talks more about the director herself. They talk about her personal vision, why she chooses the movies she does, etc. This interview features footage from the film.

Chavela Vargas interview – Elliot Goldenthal interviews this famous singer who had an affair with the real Frida. I personally found it a bit awkward listening to this really old lesbian talking about her encounters with Frida. She is Mexican, so her discussions are subtitled.

The voice of Lila Downs – Lila Downs sang for the film and also had a cameo as a singer in one of the scenes. She talks about being chosen for the film, her singing style, etc.

The vision of Frida: with Rodrigo Prieto and Julie Taymor – The Director of Photography talks about working with Taymor, how he set up scenes, and how he came up with the unique look of the film.

The design of Frida: with Felipe Fernandez – The set designer talks about working with Taymor and the unique challenges of giving the film a special look and feel.

The music of Frida: with Elliot Goldenthal and Salma Hayek – Salma Hayek interviews Goldenthal. They talk about Spanish music, the sound of the movie, etc. This soundtrack won numerous awards.

Salma Hayek’s recording session – At one point in the movie, Hayek sings in a bar. For the movie soundtrack, Hayek re-records the song. Feeling a bit nervous, Hayek is shown chugging down wine to get courage to sing the song.

Bringing Frida Kahlo’s life and art to film: a walk through real locations – Set designer Felipe Fernandez talks about re-creating the real life houses where Frida lived. They made sets on sound stages exactly match the locations in the movie. This is one of the more interesting bonus features on the DVD.

Portrait of an artist – This seems like a cable TV special promoting the film. It features the most behind the scenes footage of any of the features and each of the cast members talk about Frida and why she’s special. Everyone reiterates that it is a story about love, but seeing as how I didn’t get that from the movie, I had a hard time buying it.

“Amobea Proteus” visual FX – This small effects house talks about how they created some of the scenes in the movie. Using low budget, low tech techniques, they helped add the bizarre imagery to the story.

“The Brothers Quay” visual FX – These guys provided a surreal and gruesome sequence for the movie where Frida is wheeled into a hospital with terrible wounds. Stop-motion puppets of Day Of The Dead skeletons portray doctors and nurses.

Frida Kahlo facts – This is a short text biography about Frida. It doesn’t tell you much that you didn’t see in the movie. There are no facts about Diego and what happened to him after Frida died.

The Bottom Line:
This movie is only for Frida fans, Salma Hayek fans, and art house film fans. This isn’t a movie general audiences will flip for. As much as it did not appeal to me personally, it is a first class production with a great cast.

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