(out of 5)
The life and awe-inspiring work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo has been a project on the plate of many a celebrity in the last decades: Madonna’s efforts to make the film is credited with bringing widespread awareness of her work to North America in the nineties, while Jennifer Lopez tried to initiate her own production before Salma Hayek‘s labour of love finally made it to the screen. She as both producer and actor and director Julie Taymor beautifully bring to life the many important events that shaped Kahlo’s viewpoint into her often bizarre, mostly brilliant paintings. Beginning with the terrible bus accident that as a young girl left her crippled and in great pain for the rest of her life, the story continues through her volatile relationship with Communist painter Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), her many affairs with the women in her life (including cameos by Ashley Judd and Saffron Burrows) and her controversial affair with Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush), all the while concentrating on Kahlo’s highly charismatic, likeably acidic personality. The film avoids many cliches of artist biographies (we literally see paintings come alive in Frida’s mind before they reach the canvas), while falling right into others (her relationship with Rivera is sometimes a bit too Lady Sings The Blues for my taste), but it is beautifully shot and costumed, and Hayek couldn’t be more powerful or convincing in the role. Molina, under prosthesis and a lot of weight that he gained for the role, has never been more attractive, and the cameos by Judd, Antonio Banderas and Hayek’s then-boyfriend Edward Norton (who also did an uncredited rewrite on the script) are entertaining and memorable.
Directed by Julie Taymor
Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Production Design by Felipe Fernández del Paso
Costume Design by Julie Weiss
Film Editing by Francoise Bonnot