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Mon November 4, 2002
Like "Evita," "Frida" is a romantic treatment of a flawed but immensely interesting Mexican icon.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Any attempt to make a biopic of an artist is bound to be imperfect because I always want immediate access to the source of inspiration and complete art deconstruction of the artist's important pieces. Neither is possible in a film and may not be desirable.
Like "Evita," "Frida" is a romantic treatment of a flawed but immensely interesting Mexican icon. Frida Kahlo, played by Salma Hayek, could paint charming pain better than almost anyone else in the first half of the 20th century. Her inspirational pain inflictor was Diego Rivera, the premiere Mexican painter whose government murals in Mexico and the US and leadership in the Communist Party made him both notorious and irresistible to women.
Hayek underplays her painter, letting us appreciate her gleeful and fearful journey through a debilitating bus accident and a destructive marriage. Throw in a little bisexuality and infidelity for the flavor.
But the grandest artist of this film may be the director, Julie Taymor of "Lion King" fame. The colorful country has finally received the fullest measure of brilliant visualization and passionate living. Sets, costumes and the entire mise en scene are a palette of endless pleasure for the director.
As in the case of "Evita," some will criticize the lack of real character depth and the episodic timeline approach--to them I say you are right, but I ask those critics to think if any other artist biography has ever done as much as "Frida" to delight us intellectually and visually. Consider, if you will, the opening scene of the ailing Frida in 1953 carried on her bed to her one-woman show in Mexico or Frida and Diego's pact to be "not faithful, but loyal" and you will get some idea of extraordinary lives and the vibrant movie about them.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice chairs The Film Council of Greater Columbus. "It's Movie Time" can be heard on the web at www.wcbe.org at 8:01 pm Thursdays and 3:01pm Fridays.