Frida took the Academy Awards by storm back in 2002 with six nominations and two wins. Salma Hayek didn’t win Best Actress for her portrayal of real-life artist, Frida Kahlo, but plenty of individuals say this was an upset, and I completely agree with that. Salma Hayek has never had a more interesting character to play and she did far better than I expected.
The character played by Hayek, Frida Kahlo, was such an outstanding person who contributed a wealth of art to the surrealist movement of the first half of the twentieth century. Frida depicts the life of this suffering artist in what is my understanding to be fairly accurate. Her biography was no secret and is still famous as she was outrageously eccentric. It’s not just her art and lifestyle that made her famous, but she was first known in the art world for her marriage to Diego Rivera. Rivera was a hugely influential painter and political activist in Mexico for years before his marriage to Frida.
Frida sings up a song of much pain but also an unrelenting disregard for societal standards. Beginning in the 1920’s, the movie surprised me with the amount of sex and seriously crazy antics that I never thought would have been so accepted in the traditional setting of Mexico. Then again, it was Mexico City and the whole world was in a time of dramatic modernization.
The film mainly focuses on the dramatic marriage of Kahlo to Rivera. Shocking affairs on both sides help contribute to ups and downs. Ultimately the love between Frida and Diego keep them together through many challenges. This romance, fully unique, could only be this interesting because it’s true.
Aside from the intense character development, Frida has a ton to offer. Living paintings by Frida Kahlo are incorporated in a beautiful way. Scenes are transformed into a picture of stunning beauty. The fact that so much original art is in this movie is probably one of my favorite things. Add to this an incredible musical score, amazing acting from huge names and the completely over-looked directing talents of Julie Taymor and you have a very watchable film.
The most visually stunning aspect of Frida right at the get-go is the rainbow of vibrant colors. Blues and reds stand out early on but are muted in the middle when things get dramatic. The picture is less than clear though, with too much in the way of dirt and distractions. The inconsistency is what kills this as sometimes detail is exceptional, with every hair on Salma Hayek’s mustache and unibrow ripe for the plucking but the downside is that detail only shows up on a consistent basis when it’s the focal point in the foreground. You’ll notice the backgrounds are fuzzy and sometimes so are things right in front surrounding a character. For a 2002 release of a film that had so much award buzz, I’m surprised that Frida on Blu-ray isn’t any better than it is.
The audio for Frida follows suit of the visuals and leaves much room for improvement on a prestigious catalogue release. Sounds are sometimes hushed during key dialogue moments, which left me rewinding to catch the important lines. Surround sound doesn’t really amount to much when it certainly could have as this movie is filled with a plot enhancing musical score. The music was so incredible it definitely deserved the Academy Award for Best Music; Original Score back in 2002.
This long list makes up the extras in Frida.
Commentary with Julie Taymor
A Conversation with Salma Hayek
American Film Institute Q&A with Julie Taymor
The Voice of Lila Downs
The Vision of Frida: With Rodrigo Prieto and Julie Taymor
The Design of Frida: With Felipe Fernández
The Music of Frida: With Elliot Goldenthal and Salma Hayek
Bringing Frida Kahlo's Life and Art to Film: A Walk Through the Real Locations
The Brothers Quay Visual FX Piece
Frida may not be on your list of must sees but if you haven't seen it, you gotta see it. It's not any old romantic drama, and it's not some boring wannabe historical fiction piece. It's just a solid movie with solid acting, script and cinematography. Even though the Blu-ray presentation isn't the best, it's still an upgrade from DVD. Pick this up as soon as you can, it's definitely a keeper if not for anything else than for watching Salma Hayek.