If you’re already a fan of director Julie Taymor’s look at the fascinating if sordid life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (and I am), Blu-ray is really the way to go. Taymor did a marvelous job translating her considerable theatrical experience to the screen, and the lush, Oscar-nominated art direction that adds so much to the look and feel of the story is simply gorgeous in high-definition.
This is one of the better biopics of the last ten years, a passion project of Salma Hayek’s, and she is superb in the title role that rightly won her an Oscar nomination. What ultimately makes the story of two openly communist artists worth watching (besides a solid screenplay and a number of flawless performances) is that it’s the story of a woman whose heart is at war with her bohemian politics. All that free love talk conflicts with her sincere love for her mentor Diego Rivera (an outstanding Alfred Molina), and ultimately they end up settling down into what they might call a “bourgeois existence.”
Edward Norton has a small but memorable role as a surprisingly sympathetic Nelson Rockefeller, and Antonio Banderas shows up as David Alfaro Siqueiros, a fiery communist painter (who, in real life, participated in an assassination attempt on Leon Trotsky). It’s a single scene cameo but one of the best in the film. Trotsky is also a major player in the latter half of the story in the person of Geoffrey Rush, and you’ll also spot the superb Diego Luna, as well as Valeria Golino and Saffron Barrows.
The one weak spot is Ashley Judd as Italian photographer Tina Modotti. Her accent is so bad you just know that somewhere Kevin Costner is smiling.
The best biopics take you into the world of their subject and only roll the credits after you feel as though you’ve had the full tour of that person’s human condition. “Frida” not only accomplishes that with an undeniably fascinating protagonist, but this is the kind of film Blu-ray was made for. A real bounty for the eyes and ears.
It would also be a mistake to think that the film shares the politics of its characters. To her great credit, Taymor doesn’t shy away from the inherent hypocrisies and absurd contradictions of wealthy, artistic elites who call for revolution and carry on about “the worker” while living the high life. We’re given more than one opportunity to chuckle at the immaturity and self-importance of it all. And the destructive, emotional cost of sexual infidelity is one the story’s primary themes. The pursuit of pleasure costs Frida and Diego their happiness. That is, until they finally grow up and settle down like Ozzie and Harriet.
“Frida” is available for purchase at Amazon.com.