CFS presents “Frida”

Katie Griffin

Mexico. The very word brings to mind spring break, “Girls Gone Wild,” piña coladas on the beach and possibly even Jimmy Buffet sing-along sessions. But that’s not the Mexico I’m talking about. I’m talking about the real Mexico – the one many of us erroneously confuse with the Mexico we meet sophomore year in Cancun. The real Mexico is turbulent; It’s emotionally-charged; it’s sexy and it’s passionate. This is the Mexico that inspired Frida Kahlo, a fiery Mexican painter whose passionate nature is evident with each stroke of her paintbrush.

The Cultural Film and Lecture Series this semester opens with “Frida,” a colorful account of the life of Kahlo, a surrealist living in the first half of the 20th century. Kahlo’s life was a whirlwind of spirit and emotion, just like the vibrancy and movement in her paintings. Her art doesn’t have the geometric perfection of Michelangelo; it doesn’t have the ubiquitous beauty of a Monet. It’s unconventional, much like Kahlo herself. At times, she chose to dress like a man. She wore her dark hair short, and her thick eyebrows were left unplucked, creating her characteristic unibrow. Still, despite their initial shock value, both Kahlo and her paintings were captivatingly striking.

Salma Hayek, who both produced and starred in “Frida,” devoted several years to the film so that it would be an unapologetic account of the life of the painter. Hayek, a Mexican native, unabashedly transforms herself into the woman Kahlo was, a commitment essential to the understanding of Kahlo’s spirit. Kahlo desired to be true to herself, even though that meant being vulnerable to a critical public, just as Hayek was vulnerable in exposing herself in this film.

Hayek, in collaboration with director Julie Taymor, excluded nothing from the depiction of Kahlo’s tumultuous life. Beginning with the omnipresent physical pain from a bus accident that nearly paralyzed her at age 15, to the emotional and psychological trauma of a tempestuous marriage, the miscarriage of her child and her flirtations with other women, Kahlo endured what could easily shatter a weaker, less resilient person. Ironically, Kahlo’s inspiration for painting came through her suffering. She refused to acquiesce to her pain: early in the film, she is told, “If you’re a real painter, you can’t live without painting. You’ll paint until you die.” Kahlo did just that, devoting all she had to her passion.

“Frida” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with proper identification and $5 for all others.

The Monday evening showing will offer an introduction to the film as well as a discussion, “In the Service of Art,” after the viewing. The discussion will be led by guest speaker Joan Lynch, a retired communication department professor and founder of the CFS.