Frida (2002): ***
Directed by Julie Taymor
If this movie had been called "Frida and Diego" I would have probably liked it a lot more than I actually did. I went to see a movie about Frida so I could see a movie about an artist and her work. But that's not what the movie is about. We rarely get to see her painting, and we get really no insight as to how her artistic process worked. That's what interests me in movies about artists.
This movie is really only about Frida's relationship with her hubby, Diego Rivera. That's fine, but if I had known that I probably wouldn't have gone and seen it. Relationship dramas are infinitely less interesting to me than films about and artist and his/her art.
This Julie Taymor's follow-up film to the fan-fucking-tastic film Titus, which is the greatest Shakespeare film of all time and one of my favorite movies of the last ten years. Unfortunately Ms. Taymor toned down her filmmaking a whole lot for this film. It's not particularly spectactularly directed. For the most part it's just a standard-feeling film. But there are bits here and there where she goes absolutely nuts and directs like a crazy woman, and those are all fantastic and full of life and magic and made me happy to be alive so I could witness them. There's the puppet-animated hallucination after Frida gets injured, the trip to New York, the trip to Paris, and several instances of actual real-life/computer recreations of Frida artwork with Salma Hayak and Alfred Molina inserted into them. These are some fantastic special effects, and all these scenes live up to Taymor's Titus.
Unfortunately those bits are few and far between, so when they do happen it's almost jarring. They don't quite gel with the rest of what we see on screen. For someone whose work is so viscerally symbolic, I wanted more of this kind of stuff throughout the entire film, not just isolated little pockets here and there. Then this film might have been a contender for my favorite film of the year.
Oh, well. All the acting in the film is fantastic. Alfred Molina is a great big teddy bear of an asshole as Diego. Salma Hayek gives a very raw, energetic performance. And is naked a surprising amount of the time she is on screen. It never hurts any movie to have Salma Hayek without clothes on.
So in conclusion I would have liked this film to have more Frida art and more crazy, symbolic direction.
-Christopher Grant Harris
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