Frida Kahlo: the woman who redefined feminism

Updated: Jul 7


Frida Kahlo frequently lingered in the shadows of history during her lifetime, eclipsed by the enormous swath created by her famed husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.


Today, Kahlo has been resuscitated as a feminist icon, the girl of the 1930s and 1940s who had "cojones," as husband Rivera characterized it, sexually chasing men and women with equal zeal and rejecting her husband's art world's petty pretensions.

Bringing Kahlo's tale to the cinema, therefore, conveys an essentially feminist spirit of bringing a forgotten artist to the forefront, a mission director Julie Taymor is able to fulfill despite her film's traditional architecture.

Taymor gives Frida the vivid, tumultuous portrayal of Kahlo's life that fans anticipate from a movie biopic.

Frida's frustrations and heartaches are addressed as important as her artwork, which frequently represented those very demons in astonishing and terrifying self-portraits and is graced with a robust, riveting performance by Salma Hayek.

Alfred Molina, who plays Rivera, is convincingly complex as a guy who extolled his wife's skills yet crushed her heart with his roving eye and disparaged her as a woman with his recurrent adultery.

Hayek transforms a fascinating historical character into a human being with her petite stature, dazzling eyes, peppery demeanor, and snappish humor.

Rivera sleeps with models, socialites, prostitutes, and even Kahlo's sister, while Marxist housewife Frida patiently takes food to Rivera's studio and listens to his problems.

Although Kahlo's life is limited to the usual romantic arc of a woman characterized by her great love in Frida, Hayek manages to elevate Kahlo.

Hayek transforms a fascinating historical character into a human being with her petite stature, dazzling eyes, peppery demeanor, and snappish humor.

"I prefer a female with guts," Rivera quips, a mix of respect and titillation in his voice immediately after meeting Kahlo.

And Frida adheres to that interpretation of Kahlo's audacious defiance, presenting spectators with the freeing vision of a woman filled with wrath, sexual boldness, and robust ideas.

Though it glosses over polio that was the first attack on Kahlo's body, Taymor's film focuses on the artist's life-changing bus accident as a teenager, the effects of which characterized her whole existence.

Frida learns to paint while confined to bed for more than a year, embellishing her chrysalis-like body casts with butterflies to emphasize her emerging creative transformation.

Rivera created well-known murals that praised the working class, Frida says.


But it was Kahlo's passionately proud Mexican background and reverence for its traditions that enabled her to infuse the morbidity and melancholy of Mexican culture, as well as her wrath at her pain-ridden and barren body, into her art.

While Diego spouts arcane beliefs on the end of "bourgeois" easel painting in Frida, Taymor maintains that Kahlo's masterwork was actual life, not political abstractions.

Despite the fact that she was frequently classed artistically with the Surrealists, Kahlo objected.

"I never painted dreams. I created my ow