January 28, 2012 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Frida may be one of those movies that’s forgotten about in a few years. Like so many other movies like it (i.e. the biography of so and so…), it’s well-made, but we have to ask ourselves if it is truly worthy of being watched/admired/revered? Is it? Honestly, I don’t know. Selma Hayek was nominated (and deservedly so) for a Best Actress Oscar for her part as the tortured Frida Kahlo. Going back to her Spanish roots (influences), she meshes perfectly with one of my favorite actors, Alfred Molina. The film doesn’t have a lot of action, but it does manage to convey what was going on in the life of Frida; a very tortured soul whose art inspired countless others. Frida chronicles her life beginning as a teenager and up to her death. The film was directed by Julie Taymor, who might be best known for her direction of the Anthony Hopkins movie Titus (and I don’t think that she only directs movies with a one-word title, but I could be mistaken)! If the movie is somewhat slow, it’s only because of the immense amount of detail involved. However, I think the average moviegoer will want to take a look at the film as it’s full of surprises…

We meet Frida (Selma Hayek) as she is a teenager. She’s not the noblest of souls, in fact being a Catholic, she does break one of their major rules – she has sex with a boy (in a most odd place as well), but is otherwise a “good girl”. Then, something happens, she’s on a trolley with the boy and there is a crash. Not a little crash, mind you, but something that puts her in the hospital for a while. And I’d be lying if I said one of my favorite scenes was the one where she gets her cast cut off (see the movie and I’m sure you’ll agree). From then on, though, her life is changed both physically and mentally. The sheer physical pain this woman must have been in would be unbearable to most of us. However, she learns to channel that pain into something creative; in the form of art. About this time, she marries Diego Rivera, played by Alfred Molina (a more popular artist and more widely-known than Frida). Rivera lacks morals, but is also an artist, he’s just more popular than his now wife. Though he tends to have a wandering eye, she sticks with him for some time. The two seem to compliment each other, even though at times it seems they hate each other. But the way in which their relationship is shown on screen, it seems as if the two were meant for each other.

This film might be the defining point of Selma Hayek’s career, and it’s yet another in a long line of good roles for the veteran character actor, Alfred Molina. Molina, British by birth, is one of those actors who you know you’ve seen someplace before, yet you just can’t really place him. Truly the sign of a great actor, when you can’t recognize him from one role to the next (take that Harrison Ford)! Frida has a little bit of everything, action, romance (and there’s a few scenes in which Frida and another woman show their feelings for each other). Biographies are always interesting movie subjects, to me, but none more than the “lesser-known” ones. Sure, it’s nice to see a movie about JFK, but it’s all been said and done so much that it’s nice to see something new and fresh. The actors in this film are great and though the subject matter might be a bit boring, it’s a relatively entertaining movie that will certainly find some new fans on DVD.

Video: How does it look?

The video for Frida has been presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that is truly a feast for the eyes. Though the transfer does have a few things wrong with it, for the most part it’s another fine effort from Disney. I was a bit surprised to find this in a 1.85:1 as Taymor’s last film, Titus was shot in a wider ratio of 2.35:1. In any case, the image is very muted at times, though it’s intentional. A bit of grain can be seen from time to time, but it’s difficult to tell if it’s because it was intended that way or a fault of the transfer. Several effects are done through some “camera trickery”, but the result is stunning on DVD. While edge enhancement and halos are nowhere to be found, I thought the transfer did lack the sharpness that would be associated with the movie. Again, though, it could have been planned this way. All in all the transfer is nothing short of great and viewers won’t be disappointed.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very active, and it’s no secret that the soundtrack is one of the key factors that make this movie work. Dialogue, though a bit skewed (the movie takes place in Mexico, so we have to read a lot of subtext and get used to the accents), does come off sounding pretty good. The surrounds kick in with the score and the somewhat “traditional” music of Mexico fires up. Though there’s not a lot of action to note, the sound is fairly strong at times, especially during the trolley crash scene. Not one of your reference-quality tracks, but certainly (again) nothing that viewers will not like.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Extras. You want extras? We have extras for you…two discs worth. I’ll try and touch on everything, but let’s just say that if you’re a fan of this movie, then you’ll be in heaven. The first disc contains the film along with two commentary tracks. Well, let’s make that one and a half. The first is with Director Julie Taymor who seems very talkative about the film. She comments on the script and the location (all in Mexico) and about everything in between. She’s obviously very proud of her work here and it shows as the commentary is very engaging. There is another “selected scenes” commentary track with Elliot Goldenthal. Though his track is more sparradic than Taymor’s, he does have some interesting things to say. I think the tracks should have been combined, but that’s just me. Additionally, there is somewhat of an EPK interview with Selma Hayek housed on this first disc. She tells of the film and how she thought it would be a small project, but obviously, it’s something that turned out to be a lot more than anyone expected.

The second disc houses the remainder of the supplement, three screens worth at four extras a pop. Yep, thirty different featurettes. Only kidding…There are three interviews, the first is with the American Film Institute (proving that they do more than just rank every movie out there) with Taymor about the film. It’s a very candid look at the film and how it came to be. Next is Bill Moyers’ show as he interviews Taymor. It’s a bit more of the same, though you do learn some more about the film when watching this one. The music is covered next with the Chavela Vargas interview. She only talks in Spanish, though, so get ready to read. It was nice, though, to hear her appreciation for the film and how her contribution helped out. Three different sections are dedicated to the physical look of the film. Vision, design and look are three different featurettes devoted to how the film looked physically. There are a number of special effect shots that are unlike most we’ve become accustomed to seeing at the movies and these three cover the bases pretty well. “Portrait of an Artist” might be the only “usual” feature we have become used to. It has a polished look to it that is like to many others we see on DVD these days. Still, though, it’s a nice addition to an already robust disc. We get to see the actual recording session in which Selma Hayek sings the song for the CD (and evidently it took a few glasses of wine to get her into “singing” mode). Some facts about Frida are also shown as text-bases screens. Additionally, there are some trailers for the movie and a French Language track. As I said above, I’m sure I overlooked something, but worry not, as your money on the Frida disc will be well spent. A rather surprisingly good movie with tons of features and great technical aspects make this a no-brainer.

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