Best Biography, Montreal International Festival of Films on Art.
“The art of Frida Kahlo is like a ribbon around a bomb” – André Breton
Frida Kahlo is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary and radical artists of the 20th century. This excellent film, directed by Ella Hershon and Roberto Guerra for RM Arts and Channel 4, was made in 1983 as a celebration of her life.
The narrative begins and ends at her ‘Blue’ house in Coyoacan, Mexico City, where Kahlo spent much of her life. At her death in 1954 her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, presented the house to the Mexican people. The house is now a museum dedicated to her life and work. Rivera is one of the shaping influences on Kahlo – a fiery, idealistic, sometimes philandering artist and Communist who Kahlo married, divorced and then married once again.
At the age of 18 Kahlo was involved in a horrendous accident while travelling by bus in Mexico City – she was to suffer the painful effects of the crash throughout her life. She sustained damage to her spine and abdomen and was confined to bed for many months. She began to paint self-portraits and portraits of close family members, as these were the only subjects on hand during her convalescence. Thus Kahlo’s painting had a uniquely painful genesis. Kahlo eventually painted over 700 self-portraits in her life, many of them dealing with pain, sexuality and fertility.
Because of the accident Kahlo was unable to have children and she suffered several miscarriages. The trauma at the root of her art is sensitively explored over the course of the documentary, alongside the idea that these beautiful paintings served in part as a substitute for motherhood. Using her journals, the film goes on to trace the last years of Kahlo’s life, finding that as her health deteriorated her attachment to objects, ideals and Rivera become only more intense. The viewer is also introduced to Kahlo as a political figure, and invited to consider the vital place she has come to occupy in Mexico’s artistic and political history.
Extras include an information booklet, picture gallery and trailers.
The soundtrack on the DVD offers the choice of English, French and German.
Art Lives, from Arthaus, is a series of compelling documentaries about artists and art movements released for the first time on DVD in the English language.