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Art turned back into art

In the race to bring the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to the screen, her compatriot Salma Hayek has triumphed over her gringa rivals Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. Making her victory all the sweeter, she’s been rewarded with an Oscar nomination, which is more kudos than Kahlo herself enjoyed in her lifetime. Hayek’s film (she‘s co-producer as well as star), however, actually opens with a rare moment of public recognition for Kahlo - the occasion when, seriously ill near the end of her short life, she was carried on her bed through Mexico City to her first solo exhibition.

‘My painting carries with it a message of pain,’ said Kahlo, her life and art defined by the horrific bus accident (impressively staged here) in 1925 that shattered her body and condemned her to 30 operations. The second great accident of Kahlo‘s life, to use her own terms, was her fellow artist Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1929, a turbulent union that survived serial infidelities on both sides, hers with both men and women.

Hayek and Alfred Molina, who plays Rivera, both deliver compelling performances. Geoffrey Rush as Trotsky, with whom Kahlo enjoyed a brief affair, is uncomfortably miscast, however. In narrative terms, this biopic runs through its subject’s life in a fairly straightforward manner. Nonetheless, director Julie Taymor (best known as the creator of The Lion King stage show) brings to the film a series of stylistic flourishes. Borrowing from both Latin American magic realism and the European avant garde, she animates Kahlo‘s paintings, while turning episodes from her life back into art. (Jason Best)

Nutters dicking around


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