Bursting with a bitterness tinged with joy and humor, like Frida Kahlo’s work itself, this life of the artist brings her out from Diego Rivera’s considerable shadow and into her own long-overdue spotlight. With a rare sensitivity and understanding of the psychology of creativity, Salma Hayek (Wild Wild West) as Kahlo and director Julie Taymor limn the years of emotional, physical, and political upheaval that endowed Kahlo’s canvases with the same uneasy splashes of color and horror Kahlo would have chosen herself. From her youth as the loving but not-so-dutiful daughter of a German photographer and his Mexican wife, when a traffic accident devastated her body and left her in constant pain (and the long months bedridden in recuperation inspired her to pick up a brush), to her tumultous relationship with Rivera and her radical activism, this is a daring film, one that shies away from nothing, including Kahlo’s gender-bending bisexuality, that would have cowed lesser filmmakers. Hayek is stunning in a fearless, uncompromising performance that’s as much tribute as artistic accomplishment; Alfred Molina (Chocolat), as the bullheaded, lively Rivera, may finally get the acclaim he’s always deserved. Taymor’s phantasmagoria — grim skeletons, living canvases — is the tart icing. Olé!
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