Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Frida Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Gerard Iribe
Garnering two Oscars in 2002 - Best Makeup and Best Music, Original Score - Frida tells the true story of artist Frida Kahlo, as portrayed by Academy Award nominee Salma Hayek (Best Actress, Frida, 2002). The biopic costars Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2), Antonio Banderas (The Mask Of Zorro), Ashley Judd (Heat), Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech) and Edward Norton (Fight Club). Directed by Julie Taymor (Across the Universe), the film was based on the novel by Hayden Herrera.  Frida was a passion project for Salma Hayek and it took a long time for the project to finally come to fruition after many years of rejections.  The long wait proved that just because you’re hot in this town, it doesn't mean you can always get what you want.  Hayek had to pay her dues like everyone else and build herself up as an actress and producer first to get this done.  It also helps that the script for Frida was that good.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)

Salma Hayek, in the role she was born to play, is artist Frida Kahlo who wasn't always rich, famous, or an artist. Frida chronicles her story from adolescence and into her chance encounter with the already great and established artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) who takes a fancy to her work, but later towards her. The couple become inseparable, but what Frida doesn’t know, but will soon find out, is that Diego is a womanizer. He’s got women lining up left and right and even has a wife while courting Frida. Diego’s wife Lupe Marin is played Valeria Golino. After some disagreements, Golino shows Frida the ropes on how to deal with Diego and they become friends.

Diego’s politics come into the picture as well. He was an atheist and a Communist and some of his beliefs would filter into his work. This didn’t go so well when he was commissioned by The Rockafeller family to create a mural for one of their buildings in New York. Nelson Rockefeller, played by Edward Norton doesn’t want his family’s name associated with Lenin’s, but Rivera is an artist and stands by his convictions.  Whether it ends well or not remains to be seen. The Rockefeller clan would not be the only obstacle(s) in Diego and Frida’s life.

What I really enjoyed about the biopic is the ensemble cast along with the direction it took. Frida is a pretty graphic film in terms of sex and violence. These are also themes that Frida Kahlo dealt with her whole life and she used it to convey that message in her work. The majority of her work is very cathartic. This, also being a film about Frida Kahlo, does reveal that she was a very liberated and independent woman. All things considered, she did like to partake of female companionship (wink, wink) and when she wasn’t sleeping with Diego she was sleeping with other men.

That’s the irony of the tale, I guess. No matter how many times she was hurt by Diego’s infidelities or nonsense, they always took each other back. They were the ultimate co-dependent artistic power force of the early-mid 20th century. The film shows you this, but it’s a kind of poetry in motion. One thing, in retrospect, is that I wish that the film was actually shot in Spanish with English subtitles, but that’s just the purist in me talking. I totally get that the studio would never have agreed to do it that way. It may be jarring to see various actors whose native language is Spanish speaking English in Mexico. Small compliant, but I’m over it.

Before I forget, Frida was given many accolades and received six Academy Award nominations, including a nomination for Best Actress. The film won two - one for Best Make-up and Best Original Score. I think everyone was surprised at how much positive attention the film received - all of it coming from someone who had a vision and would see it through to completion no matter the cost. Props all around.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

Frida is presented in 1080p 16x9 – 1.78:1 widescreen. Yes, it’s been ten years since Frida premiered and the years have been very good to her. The color palette is bold and sumptuous; it’s evident that the filmmakers and designers spared no expense at their attention to detail. Flesh tones appear natural and don’t suffer from redness or softness. The image itself has lots of awesome natural grain and puts you in that frame of mind that you are watching a “film.” There many surreal images and sequences that find their way through the movie and it’s pretty neat how these images trick the eye. The Blu-ray presentation does Frida justice.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Frida is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. One would not think that Frida would be the type of film that would warrant such a plush presentation in the audio department, but that’s where you’re wrong. Frida is a powerhouse on Blu-ray. Dialogue is crystal clear and even with all the different accents here and there you will understand them all. During the more chaotic scenes, including Frida’s accident, the audio quality stays even and kicks you in the gut. The audio track compliments the video presentation perfectly.

Special Features (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Frida ports over all of the special features from the previous DVD’s release. I used to own a copy of that edition, so I was delighted to see that the Blu-ray got some love regards to the special features. They are in SD, but it’s all about quality over quantity and this Blu-ray offers them both in spades.

·         Salma Hayek Conversation
·         Julie Taymor Feature Commentary
·         AFI Julie Taymor Q&A
·         Bill Moyer’s Julie Taymor Interview
·         Chavela Vargas Interview
·         The Vision, The Design, and Music of Frida
·         Salma’s Recording Sessions
·         Real Locations of Frida’s Life and Art
·         Portrait of an Artist
·         2 Visual Effects Pieces: Amoeba Proteus, The Brother’s Quay
·         The Voice of Lila Downs

Final Thoughts (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

It only took most of Salma Hayek’s life to finally bring the story of one of Mexico’s greatest artists to the big screen and I think she did a fantastic job in portraying the artist. The appearance is uncanny and alongside a great cast of actors, I don’t think there will ever be another Frida Kahlo biopic up to the standard of 2002’s Frida anytime soon.  She nailed it. 

Order your copy today!

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