Frida (2002)

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Released 2-Aug-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-A Conversation with Salma Hayek (38:23)
Audio Commentary-Julie Taymor (Director)
Audio Commentary-Elliot Goldenthal (Composer)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 117:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:43) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Julie Taymor
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Salma Hayek
Alfred Molina
Geoffrey Rush
Valeria Golino
Mia Maestro
Roger Rees
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Elliot Goldenthal


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
Italian
German Titling
Italian Titling
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It is probably fair to say that outside of the art cognoscenti, Frida Kahlo was basically an unknown woman. To the cognoscenti however, she was a revered artist whose stunning work was characterised by vibrant imagery, indelibly marked by the pain and suffering that she endured throughout her life. Whilst well known for her stunning self-portraits, it was perhaps the startling images of women's suffering that created the most important body of her work. To Mexicans however she was more than a mere artist, and it is entirely fitting that the often tragic life of this great artist be brought to a wider section of humanity.

    The fact that she overcame the many obstacles thrown at her during her life was an indication that this was no ordinary woman, and it is unsurprising that her life and work should be an inspiration to women everywhere. Born in 1907 to a German father and a Mexican mother, she was afflicted with polio at the age of 6. This was but the first of several tragedies to beset Frida Kahlo. At the age of 15 she was a passenger on a bus that was involved in an accident: that accident left her with a broken spinal column, broken ribs, broken collarbone, broken pelvis, eleven fractures of her right leg, a dislocated and crushed right foot and, thanks to a steel rod penetrating her through her back, damage to her reproductive system. The fact that she survived all this is probably bordering on a miracle. The fact that she not only survived this but survived numerous corrective surgeries and two years convalescence stuck in a body cast was even more amazing. Determined to walk again, Frida used the time stuck in bed to learn to paint, initially butterflies on her body cast but later self portraits using an easel provided by her father and a mirror atop her bed. She eventually walked again but for the rest of her life she suffered pain that few could even comprehend.

    With developing talents, Frida sought the opinion of Diego Rivera regarding her ability to make a living from painting, a necessity arising from the effect of the costs of her health situation upon her family. Diego Rivera, twenty years the senior of Frida Kahlo, was famed as a muralist in both Mexico and the United States, as well as a renowned womaniser. He became Kahlo's mentor, supporter, lover, husband, critic, ex-husband and husband-again in an at-times tempestuous relationship. That relationship continued until Frida Kahlo's death in 1954.

    The scope of this film is broadly that of Frida Kahlo's life and the interactions of the relationship between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, as well as hinting at Frida Kahlo's bisexuality in a very big way. Indeed, at times the central character of the film is actually Diego Rivera rather than Frida Kahlo and perhaps a far better title for the film would have been Frida and Diego. Frida is of course played by Salma Hayek, who was also executive producer of the film. She had been trying to get the film made for years, as Frida Kahlo is such an inspiration to her. It is perhaps fair to say that Salma Hayek's film career to date, at least in Hollywood, has been centred around featuring her ample physical attributes rather than her acting ability. It is equally fair to say that the only chance that she would have had to play a role such as this would be where she had final say in the hiring and firing department. That is unlikely to be the case any longer, for Frida definitely demonstrates that Salma Hayek can act. Whilst I have serious questions regarding the validity of her nomination for the Best Actress Oscar last year, this is certainly a different facet to what we have previously seen of the lady. She, however, is not the star here, for it is well-known character actor Alfred Molina who stars here as Diego Rivera. This is certainly a different looking Molina, thanks to the fifty pounds he put on for the film, but it is a superbly assured performance. Together the two leads head a truly excellent cast in just about every respect.

    The cast brings to life a very well put together screenplay (finished by Ed Norton although uncredited as such). What could have turned out to be a maudlin three hour torture is well and truly turned into a two hour interesting, generally pacy journey through the life of arguably the two greatest Mexican artists of all time. The life the cast gave the screenplay is well and truly captured by some inspired cinematography, and for anyone with an interest in film this is an exceptional look at how varying techniques can be used to convey a strong sense of purpose in a film without the need for flashy effects, over-the-top scoring or unbelievable dialogue. With so many nuances captured by the filming, there are stretches here that simply need nothing added to the silence of the film to convey the depth of the emotionality of the film. There are, however, some very clever pieces of effects work here that really enliven the storytelling by juxtaposing the art of Frida and the reality of her life. This is done by morphing actual art to live action or vice versa. It is wonderfully done stuff and really drives home the emotion that Frida Kahlo could convey in her work.

    The second artist biopic to make its way through my player for a review session this year, this inevitably draws comparison between the two. There really is a strong degree of similarity between Pollock and Frida, not so much in their lives but rather the strength of commitment to the subject matter by the lead actors. That strength is seen in just about every way on the screen, mainly in the detail brought to the film. Truly there is no other way these films could have made the screen without that commitment, and it is fair to say that both deserve the highest of recommendation as a result. This is not I hasten to add out of any sympathy to the film-makers but rather to celebrate the standards they have set. Just like Pollock, this is not a film that I would indulge in for purely mindless entertainment purposes, but it is a film I shall return to in the future purely for the sake of the excellence of the film-making. Indulge and enjoy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    As a recent theatrical release, we have every right to expect a terrific video transfer. In general, we have it but with a couple of caveats.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which equates very closely to the original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    Being a recent transfer, what we have here is what we have every right to expect: a sharp, detailed transfer with excellent clarity and definition. There is very little in the way of grain present throughout the transfer and shadow detail is generally very good. There is nothing approaching low level noise and generally this is an excellent transfer.

    Be aware that every frame of this film has been subjected to digital colour correction. Why is it important to know this? Simply that conventional thoughts regarding the colour go a little out of the window. The result of the colour correction is a wildly varying range of colours - from very bright to very subdued. The look is consistently vibrant nonetheless. As a result of the colour correction, for the intention of the process, every colour is as it is intended to be; well saturated for the bright colours, and very unsaturated for some of the steelier sections of the film such as in the hospital. There is nothing approaching oversaturation here, and colour bleed is completely absent from the transfer.

    There is no evidence of MPEG artefacting in the transfer, but the major caveat with the transfer is in the film-to-video artefacts: there is a consistent and constant problem throughout the transfer with aliasing. Whilst the aliasing is very constant, it rarely gets to the stage of being really annoying. Examples of the problem can be found on the truck at 1:40, the sign at 8:05, on the guitar at 30:02 and on the door at 32:35. It may be on a large screen that the problem could be more pronounced and distracting but on my setup it is just a minor annoyance. There did not appear to be anything significant in the way of film artefacts in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 73:43. It is not too bad an effort and is barely noticeable in the overall flow of the film.

    There is a modest collection of subtitle options on the DVD. The English efforts are generally very good, with only a few minor omissions in the dialogue here and there.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are six soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and two English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks. I listened to the English soundtrack in its entirety, most of the two Audio Commentary soundtracks and sampled some of the English Descriptive Audio soundtrack. For those of you not familiar with a descriptive soundtrack, it is simply a voice-over that describes the scene and what is happening, as well as reading credits and the like. It is quite a useful addition for those with visual impairment and its inclusion in a rental-only release is quite astounding (but welcome).

    There was certainly nothing at all wrong with the soundtracks I checked out and everything came up well and was easy to understand. There did not appear to be any audio sync issues in the normal English soundtrack.

    The score comes from Elliot Goldenthal, who, as we discover from the extras, is the director's other half. Ah, cries of nepotism I hear? Nothing of the sort - what Mr Taymor has given us is a very well crafted score that is thoroughly based in the Mexican idiom. With a lovely blend of guitar and vocal music, you would swear this score was put together by a Mexican. With genuine talents providing the vocal component of the music (Lila Down and Chavela Vargas, Frida Kahlo's lover), it is very difficult not to be caught up in that infectious music. Two big thumbs up to blatantly rip-off a well known American reviewer... The score thoroughly deserved the Oscar and Golden Globe awards it garnered.

    The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is an absolute delight - and not because it is a highly dynamic demonstration of the art of surround sound mixing. This is superb because it is not such a dynamic demonstration tour de force. Instead, the surround encoding is quite subtle, only being used when necessary (music and background noise at parties for instance). Where the soundtrack excels is in the gorgeous openness to the sound - loads of crystal clear space that allows every nuance in the voices be heard and understood. With a very very natural feel to the dialogue (and lets face it, this film really needs that naturalness) you get drawn into what is going on very easily. Not a demonstration piece with loads of directional effects but a demonstration piece for not using the space unnecessarily. Very very well done indeed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Although this is a rental only release at this time, this is a surprisingly strong extras package.

Menu

    Tying in rather nicely with the film, although unfortunately the music gets a little grating after a while.

Featurette - A Conversation with Salma Hayek (38:23)

    Since Salma Hayek has been pursuing this film as a dream for something like eight years, it is hardly surprising that she is enthusiastic about it, and everyone associated with it. Unfortunately, that does mean that everyone associated with the film was perfect and terrific and magnificent and just about everything else that gushing cloyingness requires. By the end of the thirty eight minutes, I was well and truly getting bored with what she had to say. That is of course a great shame for her intimate association with every aspect of the film by its very nature provides lots of insight into the gestation of the film. However, others may be less affected by the cloying nature of the presentation, which is presented in a full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with very good Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There is nothing wrong with this technically, but the monologue approach without hearing the actual questions is not the best presentation in the world for an item of this length. Being entirely sexist of course, there are worse ways of spending thirty eight minutes than gazing at the delectable Ms Hayek.

Audio Commentary - Julie Taymor (Director)

    Whilst I am normally no great fan of these things, after the rev up Salma Hayek gave Julie Taymor in the preceding featurette, I was a little more primed to listen to this one than normal, which might explain why I found it a little less boring than usual. To be fair, she goes into loads of detail about stuff, principally behind the scenes, and this is generally all screen-specific. Some of the technical stuff would be more interesting for those who like that aspect of film-making, but for me it got just a little tedious and the odd silent hiatuses did not aid the whole thing terribly well either. Still, it is one of the more endurable efforts I have listened to so it must be pretty good.

Audio Commentary - Elliot Goldenthal (Composer)

    Keeping it in the family as it were (he is Julie Taymor's partner, or she is his partner depending upon which way round is politically correct today), this is a scene specific commentary and not a complete audio commentary. Looking at twenty scenes from the film, mainly shortish two to three minute long segments, Elliot Goldenthal provides some insight into what was attempting to be achieved with the music, as well as the instruments being used. Whilst potentially of interest, I found his delivery to be a bit dry and monotonous which tends to detract away from what he was saying.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Obviously, the comparison between the current rental release with the two disc Region 1 special edition is hardly a fair one. Nonetheless, the Region 4 release misses out on:

    We can only wait and see if we are to be blessed with this stunning package when a sell-through release becomes available in Region 4. As it is though, the Region 1 release is in every way the more preferable effort at this time.

Summary

    Whilst it is by no means the sort of film I would stick on for pure entertainment very often, I am certainly very glad to have had the chance to see Frida. A very well done film in nearly every respect, it leaves no doubt as to why Frida Kahlo was and is such an inspiration to many people. Whilst I am not about to jump on the cloying bandwagon about Salma Hayek's acting performance, it is nonetheless very fair to say that she has rarely been given the chance to show what she can do, being generally required to demonstrate her physical charms rather than her acting ability. She was here given the chance to act and she is certainly more than capable, the result being the best performance of her career. Oscar worthy? No. In a similar vein to Pollock, to which I suppose comparisons are inevitable, this is a film well worth investigating.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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Comments (Add)
one of the best films of the year - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)