Friday, November 09, 2012

Frida: Anguish in art

Julie Taymor’s 2002 biopic of Mexico’s best known 20th-century artist Frida Kahlo is an attempt at grand scale movie making. However the enthusiasm is lost in monotony half way through the tale.
For one Frida runs for 123 minutes in a slow moving pace and with only a few incidents taking place on screen. The movie sheds light on the mystery behind Frida’s paintings which seem to be the result of a traumatic accident during her adolescent as well as her tumultuous personal life with fellow artist and communist Diego Rivera.

The story opens in what could have been noted as one of the climaxes of Frida’s life: her unexpected visit to her debut solo exhibition. The viewers are confused on what exactly is taking place as they see a bedridden woman hurried out of the house and put on a vehicle along with her bed. Then the tale goes back into the past showing the same woman, Frida, during her youth. She gets on a bus to Coyoacán, fighting with her boyfriend about Marx and Hegel. When the bus crashes into a tram Frida is knocked unconscious and covered in blood and gold dust which had been in the possession of one of the passengers. Afterwards, recuperating in bed, she begins to paint. Her tragedy is heightened when her boyfriend tells her that he has to leave the country with his parents. The only means in which she can let her emotions loose was on canvas.

Armed with a strong sense of determination Frida recovers and learns to stand on her own feet again. She asks the famous Diego Rivera to evaluate her work. Impressed by her talent Diego takes Frida to a party and introduces her as emerging young talent. As the scenes unfurl it is clear that the two are also smitten with each other and it is only a matter of time that they end up together.

Unfortunately for Frida Diego is a Casanova. Women are attracted to him like flies to a flame and infidelity is part of his nature. It does not take long for the foundation of the Diego-Frida relationship to crack and for her to move out of their home. However their magnetism keeps drawing them together. The first instance is on seeking a political favour for an exiled Leon Trotsky who moves into Frida’s home and even ends up having an affair with her.

Most of the main incidents as well as some minor facts are actually gathered from the real life of the protagonist. The fictional aspect is artfully laced into this feature to make Frida more than a mere documentary of a larger-than-life figure in art history. This makes it a colorful and entertaining watch in most instances.

The early 19th century Mexican culture is evident throughout the film in the scenes projecting socialism, lesbianism, tequila shot competitions, dancing and political discourses. Taymor does wonders in projecting Frida’s internal struggles visually. The story breaks in several places for marked animated tributes of Frida’s painting technique.

There are certain instances when Frida’s artistic talents seem to be camouflaged by her passion with Diego. This undermines the real life character’s unique genius. Several seminude scenes too are a part of the film so it is appropriate for adult viewers.

Salma Hayek delivers a spirited portrayal of Frida Kahlo. She had embraced her role from the bushy-browed appearance to the moody emotions of the artist. She shows genuine guts in her performance and does not hesitate to step into any kind of scene which her character demands.

Similarly Alfred Molina too puts on a strong performance. Though he does not score in looks he tops it up in capturing what has made Diego so appealing to women. Valeria Golino stands out as Diego’s former wife Lupe Marín who makes regular appearances in the picture.

Frida is no masterpiece but it is like a mysterious painting which you cannot help but be drawn to. It is mostly this unpredictable aura of the incidents surrounding the characters which is its strongest assert.
Ruwini JAYAWARDANA - Daily News