Frida Kahlo This Joyous Celebration Charms The Artist In A Whole New Way

Too often, documentaries about art and artists can veer toward pretentiousness and dullness. Not so with Becoming Frida Kahlo, the first of a three-part series on the great Mexican painter, which moves at a festive pace. This opening episode, The Making, and the Breaking crams a lot of information and insight into Kahlo’s early life into one hour. And establishes a gripping and reassuring portrait of the great artist she would become.

1949 painting diego yo yo

One of his works so well known and so amazingly valuable is his 1949 painting Diego Yo-Yo. Shedding a new light on it to sell for nearly $35m in 2021 seems a mammoth task. And yet this documentary succeeds in doing so. There are interviews with biographers, art historians, and, fascinatingly, family members. Kahlo’s niece Christina Kahlo, now a photographer, talks about the artist’s husband and great love, the artist Diego Rivera. As does Rivera’s grandson and then there are sections about Rivera, first a teacher, then a friend, and then her husband.

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Rivera was a big figure in Mexico

The information they provide is already available, Rivera was a huge figure in Mexico. “Perhaps Picasso was more famous as Picasso in his time. Yet it gives it a personal and comprehensive feel,” says one contributor. Their wedding was attended only by Kahlo’s father; her mother, we are told, could not accept it. She would marry a man 20 years her senior “and a Communist”. Kahlo in a photo of the couple on their wedding day is shown aimlessly smoking a cigarette.

A love letter to Mexico from 1920 to 1940

It is divided into mini-chapters, each with its own title, entitled “There Everything Goes Wrong.” which details the bus accident that nearly killed Kahlo, leaving her with horrific injuries. derailed the plan, turning her to art instead. “Most of my friends grew up slowly. I grew up in an instant,” she famously said of the accident. “It’s All Happening Here” is a love letter to Mexico from the 1920s to the 1940s. At that time why so many people from film stars to artists and revolutionaries found themselves attracted towards the country.

A bit of the scene-setting from modern Mexico City

Obviously, there is little footage of either Kahlo or Rivera, so instead, it pieces together its thesis using documentary interviews, photographs, and newspapers. Their marriage was front-page news and occasionally a bit of scene-setting from modern-day Mexico City, although it is used sparingly. It also weighs heavily on Kahlo’s own words and work. One particularly memorable moment is when during the recovery after the bus accident. She turns to painting from her bed, aided by her mother, who has made a customized easel for her.

Boyfriend Alejandro Gomez Arias has left her,

We hear that her boyfriend at the time, Alejandro Gomez Arias, has dumped her, probably because of the severity of her injuries. Magnificent Self-Portrait in Velvet Dress, her first self-portrait, the camera crawls slowly and tantalizingly…as if finally revealing all the talent and potential that has been waiting to emerge. It’s a loving portrayal of Kahlo, and it delights so convincingly in her rebelliousness and non-conformity. It’s impossible not to include. It covers all the points you might expect from a 2023 documentary about his life and work.

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