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Frida Kahlo & Tina Modotti

Laura Mulvey & Peter Wollen
30 mins Colour 16 mm film

Frida Kahlo & Tina Modotti

A documentary about the lives and work of painter Frida Kahlo and photographer Tina Modotti, divided into sections: History; Popular Life and Culture; Roots and Movements; Biography; Inward/Outward; The Body; Injury/Beauty. Also included is a home movie of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at their 'Blue House' in Coyoacan, and Tina Modotti in the 1919 Hollywood film,The Tigers Coat.

Both Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti were artists working in Mexico in the aftermath of the Revolution, during a period of general cultural awakening and social change. Frida was married to Diego Rivera and was born, worked and died in the same 'blue house' in Coyoacan, while Tina Modotti emigrated to California with her family from Udine, Italy, and travelled to Mexico with Edward Weston, where she then stayed to become a photographer in her own right. The broad similarities between their lives bind the film as a whole, reflecting on the representation of women, women's art and feminist aesthetics; while the differences between them make up the content.

But the division into sections, sometimes with an introductory split-screen effect, treating first one woman then the other, tends unhelpfully to set them up as opposite poles of experience. This has an uncomfortable and limiting neatness which works against the film's wider themes, and imposes the restriction of seeing them only in relation to each other. Their work, though, has power and an immediacy which provides a strong central core, and the examples here are presented clearly and slowly. At the end of each section, they are shown again silently, in reverse order - a method of instant revision which certainly helps in assimilating the large amount of information contained in the film, and in remembering the individual works, even if it unfortunately emphasises a certain schoolmasterish tone (an impression which the slow, clearly enunciated mid-Atlantic voice-over does nothing to dispel). It also reinforces the film's tendency to highlight the paintings and photographs themselves over the interconnections between and around them and their creators.
Review by Jo Imeso, Monthly Film Bulletin, September 1983

Sound and Editing: Nina Danino & Larry Sider

Arts Council of Great Britain

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