To hear Salma Hayak tell it, the seven years she spent trying to get FRIDA made were almost as important to her as the final, dazzling result. When we talked on October 7, 2002, this strong, intense woman mused on the the larger than life character she plays, on the larger than life director she worked with, and on how she’d like the film to change her life and the lives of others.
At one point during Julie Taymor’s exquisite film, Diego Rivera tells Frida Kahlo that while he can only paint what he sees, she paints from the heart. And so it is as it should be that Taymor’s biopic of Frida’s life is the landscape of Frida’s heart than a straightforward telling of the events of her life.
The film begins at the end of Frida’s life. Her body giving out, forbidden to leave her bed by her doctor, she is being carted, bed and all, to the first exhibition of her work in her native country. As the bed is jolted in transit, she says, “Careful, this corpse is still breathing.” It’s emblematic of the drive and spirit that drove her. Though what she calls her Judas body is on its last legs, the eyes are vibrant and blend seamlessly into the eyes of her younger self, before the accident that changed her life, before the relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera that changed her life just as much.
The script, which has four writers credited, fixes Frida firmly in her times. This was a Mexico of progressive thinking, peopled with intellectuals whose passion extended beyond the bedroom and into politics, philosophy and art in ways that makes the modern equivalent pale into arch poseurs by comparison.
There has not been and will not be a better film this year than FRIDA. It is a feast for the senses, the mind, and the soul.