“Frida”: cinema, love, art and struggle
There are not many really good films about artists. In some cases, the creators brings too modest budget, which inevitably affects the quality. Sometimes the fault is too boring or too “Arthouse” scenario. The film “Frida” — one of the few happy exceptions. Strong, bright and exciting film about the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was the result of many years of dreams and hard work of a small group of enthusiasts. We tell how, thanks to whom and in spite of what the film “Frida”was shot.
The film about the life and work of Frida Kahlo was a dream project for Salma Hayek. She dreamed of this film and being a star of Mexican soap operas, and already “lit up” in American cinema in supporting roles. “At the time, it was unthinkable for a Mexican actress to claim a place in Hollywood,” Hayek recalls. — And even though I proved I wasn’t, I was still nothing. One of the forces that made me determined to continue my career was the story of Frida Kahlo. In the Golden age of Mexican muralists, she created small intimate paintings that everyone looked down on. She had the courage to Express herself despite her skepticism. My greatest goal was to tell her story. To depict the life of this extraordinary artist and to show my native Mexico in a way that overcomes stereotypes.”
Shot from the film “Frida”: the artist with the bed taken to her first exhibition in Mexico
After the 1983 release of Hayden Herrera’s biographical book, Frida Kahlo’s life story captured the minds of many American celebrities. The release of the film about the artist was only a matter of time. Salma Hayek recalled that at the time of the launch of “Frida” in production in Hollywood, there were 12 ready-made scripts for a biopic about Frida Kahlo. David Cronenberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Pedro Almodovar were interested in these scenarios at various times. And the role of Frida except Salma Hayek claimed Jennifer Lopez and Madonna, who owns a large collection of paintings by Kahlo.
Whatever it was, it was Salma Hayek who managed to ensure that the film about Frida was still shot and reached the big screens. This film brought the actress a nomination for” Oscar ” for best actress (in total, the film received six nominations and took two statuettes — for best makeup and original soundtrack).
By the way
Frida Kahlo was a great lover of cinema. During the months spent in new York, while Diego Rivera painted his revolutionary Communist murals for the Rockefellers, the artist binge watched movies – “Frankenstein”, “king Kong”and” Tarzan.”
And Frida herself became popular in Hollywood long before the release of Hayden Herrera’s biography. This fact is rarely mentioned, but the first serious buyer of Kahlo’s paintings was the actor, gangster film superstar and selective collector Edward G. Robinson, who visited the artist in 1938 and bought four of her works for $ 200 each.
Salma Hayek was so taken with the idea of making a film about Frida Kahlo that she managed, in her own words, to accomplish the impossible. Actor Edward Norton, with whom she had been in relationships a few times helped to rewrite the script and performed in the film, a small role of Nelson Rockefeller. Other supporting roles in “Frida” agreed to play Antonio Banderas (David Alfaro Siqueiros) and Ashley Judd (Tina Modotti). Hayek recalls,”I still don’t know how I managed to convince Geoffrey rush, whom I barely knew at the time.” Rush played the role of Leon Trotsky in the film.
In addition, Salma Hayek managed to find additional investors for ” Frida “and attract to the project Director Julie Taymor, who described his meeting with the actress as” a real seduction”:”We sat on my couch, and for two hours Salma passionately described the brilliance of Frida, her obscenity, her profanity, her drinking and Smoking, her bisexuality.” At the end of the meeting, Taymor simply could not refuse to take the Director’s chair.
Julie Taymor and Salma Hayek on the set of “Frida»
Julie Taymor’s first task was to assemble a first-class Mexican crew for the shoot: “I’ve always felt it was important to bring in people from the culture you’re trying to represent.” First on her list was cameraman Rodrigo Prieto, who in the mid-1990s was already working on a film about Frida Kahlo, never seen the light.
Another important task that the Director and cameraman set themselves was to show the real Mexican colors of the middle of the last century, all their rich palette. The problem was that Frida’s hometown of Mexico city is now shrouded in smog, so many scenes had to be shot in more distant cities-Puebla and San Luis Potosi, where filmmakers managed to find the right “quality of light.”
Shot from the filming of “Frida”: the scene before the accident
The combination of different architectural styles in Mexican cities helped to solve another problem: the limited budget of the film did not allow to organize the shooting of the necessary scenes in Paris and new York. Taymor says: “We decided to showcase these places through design. They used art Nouveau to show Paris and art Deco to show new York.”
Shot from the film “Frida”: the artist in Paris
However, the film crew managed to get permission to work in a number of places important to Frida Kahlo’s story. For example, in the building of the Ministry of education, whose walls are decorated with frescoes by Diego Rivera, and in the Studio San Angel — Frida and Diego’s house, consisting of two buildings that are connected by a bridge. But most impressive of all was the trip to Teotihuacan, the city of the pyramids, which Kahlo, Rivera, and Leon Trotsky visited shortly after the fugitive’s arrival in Mexico.
In the film, Frida and Trotsky climb together to the top of the pyramid and talk while sitting on a plateau. Rodrigo Prieto recalls: “Getting permission to shoot was a nightmare. We were given only one day and not allowed to use most of the equipment, so as not to spoil someone’s aesthetic experience. The dialogue scene was supposed to be shot around noon, and I had to figure out a way to control the lighting to match the morning light on the General plans.” As a result, during the shooting of the dialogue between Salma Hayek and Jeffrey rush, the operator had to install the camera on a sandbag and a wooden box, because the use of a tripod was also not allowed.
Shot from the film “Frida”: Kahlo and Trotsky at the top of the pyramid in Teotihuacan
“Frida” was filmed for 11 weeks in the spring of 2001. Julie Taymor recalls: “there were about 200 scenes in the film, so the schedule was incredible. But Rodrigo is great, he’s exceptionally fast. And we were able to meet the schedule without sacrificing artistry.”