dir. Taymor

Opens Fri Nov 8

Fox Tower

Frida Kahlo had the sexiest moustache and monobrow ever on a lady. They weren't particularly fuzzy or fancily adorned, but the Mexican artist painted them on her self-portraits with a passionate, realistic determination (perhaps the only example of traditional realism in her artwork). This determination and passion got her laid a bunch--not only by her husband, painter Diego Rivera, but also exiled commie Leon Trotsky. Frida Kahlo was a supremely talented, irreverent, engaging, powerful atheist-Communist-artist, and for those reasons--not necessarily her physical attributes--she got play.

Neither the sass, moustache, nor the monobrow are what get Selma Hayek's Frida Kahlo laid, however. Selma Hayek is traditionally gorg, and while her portrayal of Frida is bursting at the seams with joie-de-fricking-vivre, the film version shows her as relatively moustache-less, as you probably already know from Feminist Film Geek Monthly. (I have a subscription.) For the Kahlo purist, the lack of lip hair is one of the slight ways Frida Hollywood-izes Frida. Another is that Diego's abuse is only portrayed through his obsessive womanizing. Frida's painful, painkiller-addicted death (a possible suicide) is merely alluded to; rather, she delicately croaks, saint-like, in Diego's arms, freed from her long life of physical suffering.

But this is Julie Taymor's film, all the way, and the images she paints across the screen are an enthusiastic, vivid homage to Frida's art and spirit. Because of this fact, it doesn't matter that Selma is overacting a bit (though she's not too annoying, gracias a dios), and it doesn't even matter so much that Alfred Molina's Diego is close to brilliant. Taymor, whose awesomely horrible Titus was watchable solely for its ingenious imagery, finds her visual stride with Frida. With confidence, Taymor calms down the panting, tail-wagging imagery of her past work and trusts herself and her vision. This results in scrumptious morsels of color, magical images of Frida stepping out of her own paintings, and a surreal, near-death experience scene acted out by jittering calacas (in a short courtesy the Brothers Quay). The film is gorgeous in all its huge, hairy artistry--the way it should be.