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Audiophile Audition, December 2009

This somewhat dated documentary focuses on the artist and cult figure in the women’s movement, using her many self–portrait paintings as the main visual subject matter. There are also some B&W stills of Kahlo and her on–and–off–again husband Diego Rivera, but no film footage whatever. There is an emphasis on the trolley accident that at age 18 changed her life with pain, many operations and childnessness. Footage of the Blue House in her birthplace in Mexico is prominent; it is now a Frida Kahlo museum.

The charismatic artist is described via her many paintings, with somewhat stilted voiceover by art expert Sada Thompson. I hadn’t known about the affair with Trotsky or the thorough fascination of both Kahlo and Rivera with Stalin and Communism. People like Picasso praised her art, but it leans too heavily on primitivism as far as I’m concerned.

The stills of the paintings shake up and down on the screen quite a bit, evidently due to problems in the cine transfer; it seems to improve as the film goes on. There was a 2006 PBS documentary on Kahlo which was probably better, and the 2003 feature dramatic film with Selma Hayek as Frida Kahlo was definitely a more enjoyable view.

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