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Virtually Stream New Frida Documentary

A new documentary, Frida: Viva la Vida, is currently live-streaming from cinemas in San Francisco, this week only. The film captures artist Frida Kahlo's art and life: from her birth, to the accident that forever changed her life, and her death. This is available to stream March 17th-March 23rd only through the virtual cinemas of Cinema SF and Rialto Cinemas. 

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Frida Kahlo fans, you’re on the clock.

A new documentary, “Frida: Viva la Vida,” is playing at the Cinema SF and Rialto Cinemas virtual cinemas for exactly one week — Wednesday, March 17, through March 23 — and the film’s distributor, BY Experience, is making the odd choice of live-streaming it four times a day, as opposed to just allowing you to stream it whenever you want during the one-week window.

In addition, time is running out to see the the de Young Museum exhibit, “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” which focuses on the artist and feminist icon’s personal effects — jewelry, clothing and prosthetics, among other items — that were recently discovered. The exhibit has been mostly closed during the pandemic, so with San Francisco museums now open, its run was extended through May 2.

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Although director Giovanni Troilo makes some strange choices in his overproduced “Frida: Viva la Vida,” the documentary does provide a good framework of Kahlo’s art and her life — from her birth in 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico City, to the bus accident in 1925 that would forever shape her life, to her stormy relationship with Diego Rivera to her death in 1954 at age 47. (Not much, however, about her brief move to San Francisco with Rivera in 1930.)

Troilo uses the bio as good context in exploring some of Kahlo’s best-known work, including “My Nurse and I,” “Henry Ford Hospital,” “A Few Small Nips” and, of course, “The Two Fridas,” perhaps her most famous painting. Also, her belongings that had been locked away for 50 years, many of them on display at the de Young, are discussed by directors of Frida Kahlo museums in Mexico and other experts, such as the informative Hilda Trujillo Soto, director of the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli Museums.

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The experts and critics also give us a sense of Kahlo’s personality and influences and how they informed her art, including her obsession with indigenous Teotihuacán culture.

But where “Viva la Vida” goes wrong is Troilo’s inability at times to get out of his own way and simply tell Kahlo’s story. Troilo is Italian, and this is an Italian-financed film, but the choice of Italian actress Asia Argento as our guide into all things Frida is a bizarre one. Aside from not being Mexican or a painter, she has not worked since a controversial #MeToo moment in which she was credibly accused of being a predator. Not only does she narrate the film, but she also appears frequently, speaking her narration to the camera.

Troilo also uses awkward stock footage to illustrate some eras, such as silly 1930s cartoons, and is a bit too in love with his drone shots. And then there is a recurring sequence where a pretty Mexican woman (who looks nothing like Kahlo) is seen in a barren landscape, twirling, curled up in a cave, picking a flower, etc.

However, there is enough here, including some sumptuous location shooting in Mexico, that is fascinating and insightful to make the documentary worthwhile — especially if you’re planning a trip to the de Young.


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