A movie I’d seen before and watched again helped me revisit that epic story of love and lust and art and betrayal: “Frida,” the story of Frida Kahlo and her “pancho” Diego Rivera. Years ago I saw a Mexican version (which I think must be this one, but I haven’t verified) which interweaved in images of Frida herself and whose main actress looked almost eerily like her. Beautiful film, but this is another, more accessible but also beautiful.
This is the one directed by Julie Taymor, starring the sensual and emotive Selma Hayek, and captures the twists and turns of the story of their lives and, especially, the complexities of their relationship. No wonder there is an almost cult-like obsession with Frida, her story is compelling for all that she overcame, for her brilliancy, for her joy and her sadness, and for the fact that we see ourselves in her, as women, as women who love. When Diego first sees her naked she shyly and nervously tells him “I have a scar,” and when he eases off her blouse and she turns to show him the angry raised serpentine mark on her back he murmurs “You are perfect,” as he leans close to kiss it caressingly. Ahhhh. But then he sleeps with her sister and oh so many other things. Life is not all sunshine and roses, clearly.
This is from a portrait of Diego she wrote for the catalogue of an exhibition in homage to him from 1949 at the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City:
Maybe you expect me to lament “how much one suffers” living with a man like Diego. But I do not think that the banks suffer for letting the river flow, or the earth because of the rain, or the atom discharging its energy…in my opinion, everything has a natural compensation. My difficult and obscure role of being an ally to an extraordinary being has the same reward as a green dot in a large quantity of red: a balancing reward.
I can imagine that the world where he would like to live would be a huge party, of which all beings would partake— from men to rocks, light and shadow—all cooperating with their own beauty and creative power. A party of form, color, movement, sound, intelligence, knowledge, emotion. A spherical party, intelligent and loving, that would cover the whole surface of the Earth.
(both passages from “The Letters of Frida Kahlo, Cartas Apasionadas” compiled by Martha Zamora)