Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist, died aged 47 in 1954 and was perhaps best remembered for her monobrow, bisexuality, substance abuse, back injuries, colourful clothes, on-again-off-again marriage to muralist Diego Rivera and her affair with Leon Trotsky. The art of Frida Kahlo is another matter. Julie Taymor, whose debut feature was the amazing Titus, directs this latest foray into the life of Frida who, after her death, achieved iconic status around the world. This particular vision of Frida is drawn from Hayden Herrera’s biography.
Much gossip surrounded the making of this film. It is said that Madonna and Jennifer Lopez (heaven forbid) both wanted to play Frida, Antonio Banderas accepted a small role just to be in it and Geoffrey Rush plays an odd Trotsky. In the end, Mexican Salma Hayek got the role and raised the cash to get the production off the ground. Hayek stopped plucking her eyebrows so she could get a more authentic Frida look and by the end of the film you are convinced she is Frida.
The film looks stunning. Taymor proved in Titus and in the Broadway production of The Lion King that she is a visual director. The colours are vibrant and Mexican Rodrigo Prieto’s (Amores Perros) cinematography is beautiful to watch. Elliott Goldenthal’s (Titus) score also creates authentic period feel.
The problem with Frida is that the script, apparently doctored by the uncredited Ed Norton, demands a cramming-in of all the major events of Frida’s life in a linear fashion. This leaves no room for resonance so it is difficult for the audience to feel the pain that drove Frida to paint and we get few insights into the surreal nature of her work. Kahlo’s work represented a marriage of horror and beauty and yet there is little sense of this in the film. At least Frida’s bisexuality isn’t swept under the carpet as in so many other biopics.
Hayek has the passion -“ a pity it’s constrained by the script and biopic ethics. Still, Frida is lush viewing with lots of eye candy. Opens nationally on December 26.