Year 8, Day 18 - 1/18/16 - Movie #2,218
BEFORE: The Latin-American Goodwill tour continues. From Argentina I'm moving up to Mexico, for this biopic about the most famous female Mexican artist, and her equally famous husband.
As so often happens around here, the end of the Antonio Banderas chain (though I'll see him again next week) turns out to also be the start of a Salma Hayek chain. This will indirectly lead me to the James Garner tribute, then after a couple of Redford leftovers, I'll be just a hop, skip and a St(all)one's throw away from February 1.
THE PLOT: A biography of artist Frida Kahlo, who channeled the pain of a crippling injury and her tempestuous marriage into her work.
AFTER: You might have noticed that the last two films, and tonight's as well, could easily have qualified as romance films, why didn't I include them in my annual February round-up? Well, the linking spoke to me and told me not too, plus February's all booked up, anyway - and this might be my last year of operation (then again, you never know) so I'm trying to clear that category, and that means that a few romance-based films are going to have to spill out into the surrounding months. I only have ONE intro and outro for February, so that's just two chances to take advantage of the fact that the people who star in romances do other work as well. (You'll see, it will all make sense in just a few weeks.)
But is "Original Sin" really a "romance"? A woman deceives a man and steals all of his money? Does "Evita" qualify? We see Eva Peron seduce her way up a chain of more and more powerful men, until she reaches the most powerful man in the country. If you think that's love, you've got a funny way of looking at things. And tonight it's a contest between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to see who can be more unfaithful to the other. My gut instinct to not include these films in the romance chain turned out to be correct. Not that you can't have cheating and deception in a romance film, as a couple of films this year will prove - but I digress.
Frida and Diego make a pact of sorts, to be best friends and colleagues, but to not get romantically involved - and that pact lasts for about 30 seconds. Being placed in the "Friend Zone" was never so hot and steamy when it happened to me. Maybe there are some women out there who are turned on by friendship and disinterest, and I think those are the women you may have to worry about - split personality or bi-polar or something. Hey, maybe agreeing not to fall in love just took the pressure off of Frida and Diego, and then they could deal with each other honestly for the first time, who knows?
But let's get real - he was honest about the fact that he would chase anything in a skirt, yet he pledged to remain "loyal" to Frida. That's a bit of a strange distinction to make - his character here often said his dalliances were no big deal, a sexual affair didn't mean more to him than a handshake. OK, fine, then if there's no difference, then why not just shake the woman's hand? But, seeing as how Frida enjoyed the company of ladies too (sometimes even the SAME ladies, if this film is to be believed) then how can she possibly feel jealous? I mean, if they're both cheating, don't two wrongs somehow make a right, or at least an "OK"? If she felt jealous of his affairs, wasn't that a bit hypocritical? This is a modern-day double-standard, I believe, where women, particularly bi-sexual ones are involved. A man who cheats on his wife with another woman is a lying, unfaithful dog, but a woman who cheats on her husband with another woman is expressing her sexuality, exploring something that she can't find within the marriage. So there are instances where, right or wrong, one behavior is frowned upon, when the other is excused or encouraged.
If both of their dalliances were overlooked or (eventually) forgiven, why didn't they just have an open marriage? If they both liked sex with women, why didn't they just have threesomes? Ah, the emotions will always get in the way, don't you know. It's one of those things that looks good on paper, but just try and deal with these feelings openly and honestly, and let me know how that goes.
This film fits in well with some of the movies on art I watched last year, like "Lust for Life" and "The Agony and the Ecstasy", combined with "Pollock" and "Girl With a Pearl Earring" before that, it's been a frequent topic here at the Movie Year. I did like seeing some of the inspirations for Kahlo's paintings, how things that happened to her popped up again in her paintings, how her trolley accident and long recovery time gave her an opportunity to develop her drawing style. Learning about how she painted her self portraits by looking into a mirror from a fixed position goes a long way to understanding why they look so flat (2-D) when just a little shading might have made her faces look more rounded.
It's funny that we see the big moment in Diego Rivera's career, when he got hired to make that giant mural painting for John Rockefeller - this event was also depicted in the film "Cradle Will Rock", with Ruben Blades as Rivera and John Cusack as Rockefeller. Tonight I got to see the same event, with Rockefeller decommissioning the job due to Rivera's insistence on including famous Communists in the mural - from the other perspective. But I'm left with a bit of the same empty feeling I had with the lack of political background in "Evita" - for example, why was Diego Rivera so into Socialism/Communism in the first place? We've got someone running for U.S. President as a Socialist right now, and I think a lot of people don't properly understand the cause, or why so many people, rich and poor alike, get attracted to it. Was it just the "hip" thing to do in 1920's Mexico?
What I mean to ask is, we generally accept even today, that "artistic" people also tend to be more liberal - if not socialist, then at least ultra-Democratic. Why? What's the connection? Where's the rule that says you can't be a successful artist, musician, poet you can't also be a Republican or a Conservative? Is it just because those creative types have spent more time being poor, out of work, or working minimum wage jobs before succeeding as artists? And when there is a famous conservative musician or artist, like, say, Ted Nugent, it's almost treated as an aberration.
I admit I don't know much about Communism, either. I forgot that Leon Trotsky escaped to Mexico, and I had no idea he may have had a dalliance with Frida Kahlo as well. But here's a great opportunity for me to learn some more trivia.
Also starring Salma Hayek (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Alfred Molina (last heard in "Monsters University"), Geoffrey Rush (last seen in "Intolerable Cruelty"), Valeria Golino (last seen in "Four Rooms"), Mia Maestro, Ashley Judd (last seen in "Someone Like You"), Roger Rees (last seen in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), Diego Luna (last heard in "The Book of Life"), Saffron Burrows (last seen in "Shrink"), Roberto Medina, Margarita Sanz, with cameos from Edward Norton (last seen in "Moonrise Kingdom"), Didi Conn.
RATING: 6 out of 10 Mexican pyramids