Posted by on 05/09/2019

05/02/2019 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm America/Chicago Timezone
Denison Public Library

“The movie biography, a tricky genre to begin with, is never more so than when the subject is an artist. The lives of creative people are sometimes dramatic, but they rarely make satisfying drama, and even well-made, well-acted biopics tend to be dutiful, decorous and lifeless. The psychology of inspiration and the tedium of artistic labor seem to elude the conventions of filmmaking, so that our desire to glimpse the inner workings of genius is teased and thwarted. Instead, we are usually treated to the superficial pageantry of the artist’s career — sex and politics, drinking and fighting, celebrity and ruin.

Occasionally, a movie comes along that transcends these limitations. Julian Schnabel’s ”Before Night Falls,” a passionate exploration of the life of the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, was one. ”Frida,” Julie Taymor’s teeming, color-soaked portrait of the Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, comes tantalizingly close to being another.

Ms. Taymor’s film, adapted by no fewer than four screenwriters from Hayden Herrera’s biography, is as restless and determined as its subject, whose painful, promiscuous life has become, almost 50 years after her death, something of a pop-culture legend. But while Kahlo, at least in the account favored by Ms. Herrera and Ms. Taymor, refused to be constrained by her sex, social convention or disability, ”Frida” is corseted by the norms of high-toned, responsible filmmaking, ticking off important events in Kahlo’s life without much insight or feeling.

But when the movie manages to break free — in bursts of color, imagination, music, sex and over-the-top theatricality — it honors the artist’s brave, anarchic spirit.

The further it strays from sober naturalism, the better ”Frida” is. The parade of historical celebrities — Trotksy, André Breton (the balding fellow with the pipe), Nelson Rockefeller (Edward Norton) — is matched by a steady stream of movie stars enjoying florid cameos and trying out silly accents. Ms. Judd, playing the photographer Tina Modotti, bends her usual Kentucky accent around phrases like ”Basta!” and ”Viva la Revolución!”; Mr. Rush speaks Russian like the Australian he is. So much the better. Frida Kahlo was no realist, and neither, despite her occasional dutiful, desultory efforts, is Ms. Taymor.”

Taken from: “Film Review; A Celebrated Artist’s Biography, on the Verge of Being a Musical”, written by A. O. Scott for The Guardian, Oct. 25, 2002.


Be the first to comment.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Follow Ideation Station or Gallery Off the Square on Instagram

%d bloggers like this: