Review: Frida. Viva la vida
- Giovanni Troilo’s docu-film is a journey through the works, places and personal possessions associated with the revolutionary Mexican artist who has become a pop icon
“I lost three children and a series of other things that would have fulfilled my horrible life. My painting took the place of all this”. It is with this quote that the docu-film event Frida. Viva la vida, directed by Giovanni Troilo and dedicated to the revolutionary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (and screened at the Torino Film Festival), first begins. Frida developed her creativity in the wake of a serious bus accident which left her with a broken spine. The idea that torment is at the root of the creative mind has its origins in a passage attributed to Aristotle, or rather, to the school of Aristotelian thought. Pain isn’t necessarily the only thing to give rise to masterpieces; indeed, the opposite could be said to be true. Art doesn’t express pain; on the contrary, it reinterprets it. And the life and work of Frida serve to confirm this, which is why the title of this docu-film is an invocation of life.
“An artist, an icon, a woman, a wife, a saint, a martyr. She has become a symbol, an ideal. But there’s far more to her story”, explains Asia Argento, whose voice and presence guide the viewer through the film. A film which is a six-chapter itinerary in search of this pop icon, taking us to the heart of Kahlo’s Mexican homeland, by way of exclusive interviews, documents from the time, reconstructions and works by the artist herself, including her most famous self-portraits: the one with Diego Rivera dating back to 1931, the The Two Fridas dated 1939, The Broken Column dated 1944 and The Wounded Deer from 1946.
The documentary opens onto Mexico City, August 1953. Frida is about to have her right leg amputated in the wake of the accident. But, at this point, we’re immediately taken backwards in time, by way of notebooks, diaries and notes. “Frida was an excellent storyteller”, explains Asia Argento. It’s now July 1907, the time of Frida’s birth, and we’re on the corner between Calle Londres and Calle Allende in Coyoacán. Next, we jump forwards to modern-day Mexico City, in Casa Azul, where Frida lived and died, her private universe reported in so many of her paintings. “There’s nothing that hasn’t been said or written about Frida”, muses Hilda Trujillo Soto, who has, since 2002, directed the Frida Kahlo Museum - one of the three most visited museums in Mexico City – as well as the Anahuacalli Museum. Hilda Trujillo, whose passion is reason enough to watch the film, was tasked with re-opening trunks which had been sealed closed for 50 years. This changed our understanding of Frida; it gave her the nuances which had been missing from the publications written on the artist to that point. “I was invading her privacy, but we understood what art actually is through Frida, something which no book can teach you”.
All the pieces of the puzzle are put together through extraordinary testimonials. It’s an exuberant montage, composed of stock clips and a graphic pop-art style awash with the colours of Mexico, which takes us all the way to Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, to the desert of San Luis Potosí, and on to Tepoztlan. The docu-film’s musical score, penned by the composer and pianist Remo Anzovino, includes the song “Yo te cielo” - a title which was taken from a famous letter written by Frida - sung by Yasemin Sannino and embellished with trumpet notes coming courtesy of Flavio Boltro.
Frida. Viva la vida is produced by Ballandi Arts and Nexo Digital in association with Sky Arte. The film is sold worldwide by Nexo Digital and will be released in Italian cinemas, as an exclusive event, on 25, 26, 27 November. It will be released in Colombia and Romania on 28 November, in the Ukraine in December, in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Russia in January 2020, and in the US, Spain and the UK in March, travelling to a grand total of 50 countries within the year.
(Translated from Italian)
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