Friday, November 01, 2002 | "Frida"

Julie Taymor's movie version of Kahlo's life, "Frida," makes the artist seem more like a human being and less like a craft-fair novelty than she has in years.

Like Kahlo herself, the picture is imperious and colorful; the opening sequence shows us the courtyard outside of Kahlo's home, a clatter of sun-warmed royal blues, marigold oranges and brick reds, a place where monkeys and fawn-colored dogs scamper like living decorations. It doesn't seem like a real-life courtyard, but like one imagined by an artist, its colors intensified a few notches beyond reality. It seems to be a trick on Taymor's part to plant us inside Kahlo's mind, to start us out by making us see what she sees in precisely the same way she sees it, and it's an effective one

"Frida" doesn't sidestep any of the pain that must have flourished within Kahlo and Rivera's unusual partnership. But their regard for one another -- if you consider regard as something separate but connected to romantic love -- feels pure and real.

"Frida" is a movie about a marriage between equals -- one an outsize painter who painted on some pretty outsize walls, the other an artist who worked on a much smaller scale but who, as Rivera himself put it, painted expansively, from the inside out. "Frida" makes a home for the two of them, a love nest in which the fur often flies but also, paradoxically, keeps the place warm. It's a cottage just big enough for two very big, yet very human, legends.

I was fascinated by Frida, also known as Frieda, from the first time I saw her paintings and later heard more about her.

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