A documentary feature with animations of her paintings for new generations.
In a linear narrative dated from 1910 to 1954 and based on rich archival material, Frida Kahlo´s life, full of expectations and pain, is made acquainted for those who do not know of her omnipresence since decades ago. The Director shows Frida from the intimacy of her diary´s drawings and writing, beautiful and mostly unseen vintage photographs and footage, letters to and from her, newspapers, colored pictures, excerpts of interviews and writings, and off voices, in first person herself speaking, also Diego Rivera and some of her friends.
As a rebellious daughter who used to dress up in men´s clothes, she was close to her father. a photographer and voracious reader. She grew up in a religious environment asking questions such as if the Virgin Mary was really a virgin, and was constantly attracted to smart people; also aware that everything that provides pleasure is good.
In the film we watch the camera moving through her diary stopping in a specific word highlighted. Animation of drawings, illustrations, her artwork, and the use of vintage images with hints of color add to the whole providing a whimsical or overwhelming touch.
Frida loved the streets and was condemned to rest in a bed, as we all know, as her freedom was limited in 1925 because of a bus/streetcar accident, after which she began to paint portraits of herself and her friends.
During her life, art was in the air, also social unrest, awareness, ideologies, revolts, and love, were encarnated in the figure of the Master of Mural Art, her Diego. They committed to each other in 1929, it is said their marriage was of an elephant and a dove. Nowadays Frida and Diego Rivera are universal, of public domain and we may find the couple (due to Frida´s paintings) printed on towels, mugs or wherever imagination allows.
The documentary displays the married couple traveling North since Diego had a solo show at MoMA, and commissions for murals in New York and Detroit. Frida was a silent fellow traveler; she needed to express herself and painted things as she saw them in a handy format. We listen to her, and come to know about her sense of humor and sarcasm. She did not like America or being a fashion sensation in social circles, she wanted to run back to Mexico.
We are a little informed about Diego´s tumultuous and unceasing sexual interest in women, and of Frida´s longings too: Leon Trotsky, Georgia O´Keeffe, Josep Bartolí, and Isamu Noguchi, among others, are mentioned, giving hints of Frida´s interests and calculations.
Diego and Frida divorced and she learned to live alone, to cover her income she needed to paint and sell, and she got her own room, quoting Virginia Woolf.
Being with solitude a new path linked Frida to André Breton, the surrealist leader. Her art allowed her to travel for solo shows in New York at Julien Levy´s gallery and Paris, where Miró, Kandinsky, and Picasso congratulated her, but no sales though. The journey had pleasant and unpleasant aftermaths that made her say “Surrealism is a decadent manifestation of art from the bourgeoisie.”
Due to their love / hate relationship, It is recomforting to learn that after Diego and Frida married again, their affinity was one with no drama, discussions, or jealousy. Casa Azul, Coyoacán, México City was the perfect frame and also a witness of Frida´s last years of poor health, but she always with a sense of humor and making jokes about her pain.
Quoting the artist: “After my death, I believe I am going to be the biggest piece of caca* in the world”.
The documentary, has plenty of archival material and sources (private art collections included), and it shows respect for different aspects of her life, storytelling is based on fact and emphasizes her feelings, emotions, and reactions to what she lived and saw, written in the intimate context of her diary.
There is still a lot more to reveal on Frida Kahlo as a 20th Century woman, artist, Mexican, worldwide presence, and influencer.
*caca = shit
Review by José Mayorga , Guatemala, Central America lawyer and notary public, visual artist, and editor of El Azar Cultural, lives and works in Guatemala City. Cinema lover, curious about the possibilities life brings and eager to live the experience.