Frida – Day Thirty Five – #40movies40days
Another wonderful discovery on this very interesting journey. Julie Taymor does a wonderful job mixing the surrealism of Frida’s paintings with the story of her life. The film almost makes you feel like you are inhabiting Frida’s work.
The film stars Salma Hayek, in her Academy Award nominated portrayal of Frida Kahlo, and Alfred Molina, as her husband Diego Rivera. The movie was adapted by Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas and Edward Norton (uncredited) from the book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. It won Oscars for Best Makeup and Best Original Music Score.
One critic said the movie should be called Frida and Diego, since his story in inextricably tied in with hers. Here’s how Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes their relationship:
Calling their relationship complicated doesn’t even begin to explain it: Rivera cheated on Kahlo shamelessly, including a devastating affair with her sister, Cristina. Why she stayed with him was unfathomable: Fat, brash and selfish, he reminded her of a toad, she often said.
But Molina’s portrayal of the muralist is so vivid, it helps explain the mystery of their bond. He was her mentor, then her colleague. He was her friend, then her lover. He was fascinating and dynamic, and he understood her in a way no one else had, or ever would.
Hayek’s portrayal of Kahlo is just as powerful. You don’t feel like you’re watching an actress recreating the key events of a famous person’s history; you feel like you’re watching the artist come to life before you.
It’s not just that Hayek bears a great physical resemblance to Kahlo, complete with the trademark unibrow (though she stopped short of an obvious mustache).
Hayek brings such infectious joy and breathless energy to the role, such palpable drama and pathos, she’s positively magnetic.
One of the things that made an incredible impression on me in the film was Frida’s comfort in and celebration of her own unique beauty. She didn’t try to fit into conventional ideas or images about womanhood or what makes someone or something beautiful.
Instead, she fully inhabited her own unique gifts, not particularly caring what other people thought. She was magnetic and beautiful in her own right. She painted for years, not to be a commercial success or to be discovered, but to express her own inner pain, joy, family, love and culture. She absolutely and resolutely was who she was. The trueness of her own unique vision and her ability to stand firmly in her own truth was what made her successful in the end.
In the film Rivera sums up her talent in this way:
Diego Rivera: There was this skinny kid with these eyebrows shouting up at me, “Diego, I want to show you my paintings!” But, of course, she made me come down to her, and I did, and I’ve never stopped looking. But I want to speak about Frida not as her husband, but as an artist. I admire her. Her work is acid and tender… hard as steel… and fine as a butterfly’s wing. Loveable as a smile… cruel as… the bitterness of life. I don’t believe… that ever before has a women put such agonized poetry on canvas.
Frida Kahlo: (as she’s brought into the gallery ensconced in a bed she cannot leave) Shut up, panzon. Who died? Where is the music?
The other thing that struck me was how Frida endured through pain, countless operations, personal sorrow and disappointment and still found joy. Again, joy not meaning happiness but the joy that come from inside when living life to the fullest. Frida herself said: “I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.” “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
She painted what she felt, what knew inside and who she was and she did it all with an incredible sense of joy. No true artist can do more.