Frida: Collector's Edition (2002)

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Released 3-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-A Conversation With Salma Hayek
Audio Commentary-Julie Taymor (Director)
Audio Commentary-Elliot Goldenthal (Composer)
Interviews-Crew-AFI Q&A With Julie Taymor (Director) (30:10)
Interviews-Crew-Bill Moyers Interview With Julie Taymor (Director) (19:22)
Interviews-Crew-Chavela Vargas (15:46)
Featurette-The Voice Of Lila Downs (5:24)
Featurette-The Vision Of Frida (6:09)
Featurette-The Design Of Frida (2:28)
Featurette-The Music Of Frida (4:58)
Featurette-Salma's Recording Session (2:39)
Featurette-Bringing Frida Kahlo's Life And Art To Film (5:21)
Featurette-Portrait Of An Artist (14:12)
Featurette-"Amoeba Proteus" Visual FX Piece (9:25)
Featurette-"The Brothers Quay" Visual FX Piece (1:34)
Notes-Frida Kahlo Facts
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 117:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:43)
Dual Disc Set
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
Mía Maestro
Roger Rees
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 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
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Regular readers of this site will no doubt know two inescapable facts. One is that I hate extras packages with a passion, as extras tend to equate to space-filler with little point to their inclusion on a DVD. The second is that the original rental-only release of Frida very much impressed me - enough to make my Top 10 DVDs of 2003. So what does the distributor do to differentiate the sell-through release from the rental-only release? Well, take the already excellent rental-only release and add a second disc to the package, one filled with extras. Not just pointless extras mind - but extras that in general add more to the understanding of the film and the labour of love involved in getting the film made. So if you want a short review: the Collector's Edition, sell-through version of Frida is a brilliant package that demonstrates that when they want to, a distributor can do the job right. This is about the first review DVD for the year that has a decent chance of making my Top 10 DVDs of 2004.

    If you missed the review of the original rental-only release, then following are the plot synopsis and comments from that review, as there seems little point to changing them.

    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. While 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 was 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 from 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.

    Returning to the film again, and in particular its stunning art direction, after a few months is certainly quite a revealing experience. It is certainly a film that, like a great painting, reveals more each time you see it. The utterly sublime nature of some of that art direction, in using art to morph to live action (or vice versa) remains some of the very best that I have ever seen and even when anticipated is still as visually stimulating as if seeing it for the very first time. The more you watch the film, you more you also come to understand the attention to detail in the film - and bearing in mind the very limited budget involved, many a bigger budget producer needs to look at how they waste money in making films. This really is just sublimely brilliant film making of the highest order and it is difficult to conceive of how a better job could have been done. The rental-only release was highly recommended. This new sell-through release very nearly attains essential purchase status. I simply cannot recommend the film highly enough, and the extras package now added to the original DVD simply gives another whole dimension to the film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    As far as I can ascertain, this is the exact same DVD that was used for the rental-only release, with the addition of a second, extras-only DVD to the two DVD package. So basically, whatever ailed the original rental-only release ails this sell-through release. It was not much if you recall.

    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.html" target="Aliasing">aliasing. Whilst the Aliasing.html" target="Aliasing">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 let's 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

    Take the strong extras package from the original rental-only release, add in a load of interesting shorter contributions on a second DVD and you have two things: a package that truly lives up to the Collector's Edition tag put on the cover and a d*** illuminating contribution to the better understanding of the film. That makes it a rare DVD indeed from my perspective.

Disc One:

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 nature of the presentation, which is presented in a full frame format, 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)

    While 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, 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 hiatus did not help the whole thing 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, 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 he was attempting to be achieved with the music, and the instruments being used. While potentially of interest, I found his delivery to be a bit dry and monotonous which tends to detract from what he was saying.

Disc Two:

Menu

    Although there is no animation, there is some audio enhancement.

Interview - AFI Q & A With Julie Taymor (Director) (30:10)

    In common with all the extras, the presentation is not 16x9 enhanced, features decent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and comes with selectable German and Italian subtitles (which on some machines the German efforts may default to "on"). The video transfer here is 1.85:1, which is the only exception to the 1.33:1 presentation of all the other inclusions on this disc. I thought this was an excellent effort, allowing the director the opportunity of not only explaining some of the factors involved in making the film but also espousing some of her directorial beliefs in general. It would perhaps have been improved with the audience questions being a little clearer but that would be the only issue with an excellent half hour - aided by a generally excellent technical presentation (the only issue, shared with all of the extras, is a tendency towards some interlacing problems evident if you pause the playback).

Interview - Bill Moyers Interview With Julie Taymor (Director) (19:22)

    Made for PBS television in the United States, this is a decent complement to the previous effort. While there is obviously some overlap, the essential differences between the two forums is evident from the greater promotional thrust of this effort and the fact that in the final analysis there was indeed not much overlap in the discussions. This was an interesting effort and overall the presentation is very good.

Interview - Chavela Vargas (15:46)

    Almost the piece de resistance of the disc for obvious reasons - probably no one knew Frida Kahlo as well as her lover Chavela Vargas. Whilst she often fails to directly answer the questions put to her by Elliot Goldenthal, that is part of the charm and essence of this piece. By not doing so, she wanders a fair deal and it results in perhaps a greater insight into the life of she and Frida Kahlo. Since Chavela obviously talks in Spanish, there are non-selectable English subtitles for this effort - which means that if you have the German or Italian efforts selected too, a fair part of the image is covered by subtitles. Essential stuff.

Featurette - The Voice Of Lila Downs (5:24)

    More of an interview with the lady, this briefly explores the circumstances behind her selection for the singing role in the film and the influences that inspired her performances. There is some behind the scenes footage here, which unfortunately suffers somewhat from aliasing at times, which fleshes out proceedings somewhat. Not quite of the standard of the previous efforts on the disc, but still quite interesting and illuminating.

Featurette - The Vision Of Frida (6:09)

    This basically looks at the way the film was shot, by way of interview material from Julie Taymor and Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto. Mixed in with the interview footage, which admittedly does have some tendency towards the cloying, is some behind the scenes footage.

Featurette - The Design Of Frida (2:28)

    This time the attention focuses upon the stunning art design for the film with the contribution coming from Production Designer Felipe Fernandez. While interesting, it is way too short for a film that was so heavily influenced by its set design and art direction.

Featurette - The Music Of Frida (4:58)

    Given the nature of the life of Frida Kahlo, music was obviously a hugely important part of her life, and so it was of an essential nature to the film. Given that it won the 2002 Oscar for Best Achievement For Music Written For Motion Pictures, Original Score (what happened to the simple Best Original Score?), perhaps a more encompassing effort would have been justified. Nonetheless, with Salma Hayek interviewing Elliot Goldenthal, this is quite an interesting effort.

Featurette - Salma's Recording Session (2:39)

    Yes, Salma Hayek did indeed sing that song in the film - and re-recorded it for the CD recording of the soundtrack. This is some of the film shot during that recording session, which took place in New York in the apartment of Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal. Who needs to be a trained singer to be able to sing with emotion? Quite interesting stuff, not the least because it is a tad unusual.

Featurette - Bringing Frida Kahlo's Life And Art To Film (5:21)

    This takes us through some of the real life locations of the film, ones which could not be used for filming and which had to be recreated on a soundstage. With proceedings led by Felipe Fernandez, this is quite interesting too, although way too short. The extent of the accuracy attained is rather remarkable given the relatively modest budget of the film. The footage of the actual house, in particular, suffers from aliasing.

Featurette - Portrait Of An Artist (14:12)

    At times giving the impression of being an extended Electronic Press Kit type of effort, one that is for the selling of the film to independent distributors, this by any other name is a behind-the-scenes featurette with footage from the film mixed with production footage and interview material with the main cast and crew. Despite the EPK style of the effort, it is interesting especially the interview material with Alfred Molina and Ashley Judd.

Featurette - Amoeba Proteus Visual FX Piece (9:25)

    Wherein the two chiefs, Dan Schrecker and Jeremy Dawson, talk about the visual effects work they did in the film - most notably the morphing of art and live action, as well as the collage work. All this is noteworthy in that it is old style "real" effects work and not CGI. Funny that some of the most stunning visual effects work I have seen in ages is all "real" stuff... Interesting stuff.

Featurette - The Brothers Quay Visual FX Piece (1:34)

    A much shorter piece that (briefly) looks at the visually quite different opening animated sequence to the film. A pity that more time was not devoted to this visually quite arresting piece.

Notes - Frida Kahlo Facts

    Seven pages of notes that provide facts about Frida's life. While a fuller biography would have been much more satisfying, this highlight grab has some impact.

R4 vs R1

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

    The original rental-only release meant that the original decision was well and truly in favour of the Region 1 release. Well, this new sell-through release makes things a little tougher as just about everything on that Region 1 release has made the jump to Region 4. Indeed, all that the Region 4 seems to miss out on is:

    It would seem that there is little to choose either way, although I suppose that Region 1 is still the narrowly preferred choice. It might be interesting to know that the sell-through release in Region 2 (at least in the United Kingdom and noted during my recent visit) appeared to be a single disc release that pretty well equates to the original Region 4 rental-only release. If that is the case, at the price point being offered, our Region 2 readers should be looking at getting this Region 4 release: the landed cost is going to be pretty much on a par with the HMV/Virgin price point.

Summary

    Since I would have been pretty happy with the original rental-only release being the sell-through release, it is terrific that the distributor has taken the view that we should at least have something very close to the package available in Region 1 (albeit somewhat later). The result is a very early contender for one of the releases of the year. A terrific film given some very interesting, and informative, extras that add enormously to the understanding of the making of the film. Really, this is an essential purchase for any collection in my view.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, March 08, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, 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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