Viva La Vida (2021)

Written for RAF News October 2021

Predicated apparently on the discovery of a large number of unopened trunks that contained Kahlo’s possessions, now on display in an exhibit at her home, the filmmaker explores some of these belongings and their significance in understanding the person who became the legend. 

Frida’s life is split into chapters, introduced with a fun and frenzied montage of graphics and stock archive footage. Herein her life is explored through interviews, primarily those running the exhibitions, though we also hear passages of Kahlo’s own words whilst watching actors interpret the artist, roaming about the mountains or looking longingly out of windows. This varied and unconventional approach is stitched together with narration from Asia Argento who appears between segments, talking intensely to camera in vague rhetoric as though introducing an episode of The Twilight Zone.

This confusion of ideas is messy: information is given at inopportune times, missing the chance to inform the viewer of the importance of themes when they would be useful. There are some elements of Mexican culture that caught with joyous observational footage, but it lacks consistency with the subject and tone. However frustrating, it is always a treat to revel in the powerful and challenging work of Kahlo, and appreciate the pain and hardship that she endured throughout her life.

Unfortunately Frida. Viva la Vida feels like a recorded walking tour through an exhibition, an invasive one at that, though this actually exists in more rigorous detail account looking at Kahlo’s life through her work as recorded by Exhibition on Screen just last year. An admirably artistic take on a documentary that gets a bit lost in its ideas.

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