From the Exhibition on Screen team that brought us Water Lilies of Monet: The Magic of Water and Light, and The Prado Museum: A Collection of Wonders ,FRIDA: VIVA LA VIDA is a fascinating , powerful film that looks at the two sides of the great Mexican artist – the woman , proudly Mexican , boldly independent yet tormented by love , and the artist , pushing against her physical restraints .
There are some glorious landscape footage and fascinating segments of streets etc that Kahlo would have known depicted in photos of the time and then we also see the current contemporary area. It looks at Kahlo’s work of dualism and opposites – light and dark , sun and moon , pleasure and pain and her fascination with life and death . Kahlo’s works are often based on the natural environment and artifacts of Mexico. Drawing on Mexico’s popular culture , Kahlo devised an idiosyncratic naïve folk art style that ponders accepted ideas of class ,race ,gender, identity and postcolonialism .Kahlo’s works often blended fantasy with reality and many contain strong autobiographical elements.
.Her life is told using Kahlo’s diaries letters and private notes and gives us access to some of Mexico’s major museums. The film is at times bright ,bold and colourful and is illustrated with historical footage of the time ( mostly in black and white ) blended with a gaudy graphic pop-art style flooded with Mexican colour . Kahlos’ major works are examined and discussed in great detail and some are photographed in close up , including her most famous self-portraits: the one with Diego Rivera dating back to 1931, On The Border Line Between Mexico and the United States ( 1932) The Two Fridas (1939) The Broken Column (1944) and The Wounded Deer ( 1946) . The influence of Dali , Breton and Surrealism is analysed among other things .The film travels from , among other places , Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, to the desert of San Luis Potosí, and on to Tepoztlan. Also mentioned are her works about her miscarriages . We see assorted rooms at some of the major Mexican museums and in the Frida Kahlo Museum we see her bedroom with the bespoke bed and mirror so she could continue working , her spectacularly colourful clothes , as well as the bathroom and also the collection of crutches , braces , and other things she had to wear to support her spine.
Suffering from polio as a child , Kahlo focused on developing her creativity after serious bus accident that occurred when she was 18 which left her with a broken spine among other horrific injuries. The film begins in Mexico City, August 1953 when Kahlo is about to have her right leg amputated.It then jumps back to July 1907, the time of Frida’s birth in Coyoacán. Then, fast forward to modern-day Mexico City, in Casa Azul, where Kahlo lived and died, and the house that has become the museum.
Her relationship with her husband Diego Riviera ( they married in 1928) is crucial to the film and we see the double portraits Kahlo painted as well as portraits of Riviera and also his artwork . During the late 1920s and early 1930s they travelled in Mexico and the United States together. We then follow Kahlo and Riviera through the1940’s when Kahlo was involved in exhibitions in the US and Mexico and also worked as an art teacher.Later we follow her sad decline in health .
Asia Argento is our guide through the film but we also have discussions by many curators and Kahlo experts – in particular Hilda Trujillo Soto, who has directed the Frida Kahlo Museum since 2002- one of the three most visited museums in Mexico City – as well as the Anahuacalli Museum.
The film’s score ( by Remo Anzovino) includes a song based on a famous letter by Kahlo “Yo te cielo” , here sung by Yasemin Sannino , with Flavio Boltro.on trumpet.
‘I lost three children and a series of other things that would have fulfilled my horrible life. My painting took the place of all this” is a Kahlo quote that opens the film..It is an analysis of how her art came out of her terrible suffering .Today , Kahlo’s work is regarded as not only important in art history but for its championing of Mexican culture as well as from a feminist perspective.
Running time roughly 90 minutes no interval
Frida Viva La Vida screens at selected cinemas from January 25 2020