Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) had her life thrust into turmoil in 1925 when she was caught in the middle of a horrific traffic accident. She emerges with enormous resilience and a determination to both walk and paint again. Along the way she is supported by fellow artist and husband Diego Rivera. The couple later welcome the exiled Russian, Leon Trotsky, into their home with fraught consequences.
As a teenage student in Mexico City in the early '20s, Frida Kahlo was fascinated with the painter Diego Rivera. After surviving a terrible tram accident, Frida begain painting herself and eventually became Rivera's third wife, though theirs was a tempestuous relationship.
This isn't the first attempt to bring the life of Frida Kahlo to the screen (there was a fairly undistinguished Mexican production in the mid '80s), but Julie Taymor's impressive movie successfully captures the spirit of a great artist. The setting – Mexico, a haven for artists and revolutionaries in the '30s and '40s – is vividly conveyed, and the casting is close to perfect. Salma Hayek fought tenaciously to be given a chance to play Frida, and she's superb in the role, as is Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera. Geoffrey Rush is a convincing Trotsky, though the part of the film in which he appears is, rather surprisingly, the least interesting.
At times the film is reminiscent of Bertolucci's The Conformist, with its bold imagery of a decadent era – and because of the scene in which Hayak and Ashley Judd dance a sensual tango together. As we saw recently with Pollock, films which explore the lives of artists and the creative process are notoriously difficult to pull off – but Taymor and her talented colleagues have succeeded beyond expectations.