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‘Frida Kahlo: A Ribbon Around a Bomb’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 22, 1992


Ken Mandel
Cora Cardona
Not rated

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The hour-long documentary "Frida Kahlo: A Ribbon Around a Bomb" is as flamboyantly lurid as Kahlo's pain-filled, dripping art. The Mexican artist was horribly crippled in a traffic accident at age 16, and her surrealistic works depict the suffering that was her companion throughout life. The film interweaves 120 of her paintings, mostly exotic, often obstetrical, sometimes masochistic, with talking heads, archival film and excerpts from the play "The Diary of Frida Kahlo," performed by Cora Cardona.

Cardona, a co-producer of the film, looks a bit like Kahlo, a handsome brunette with wary eyes and a single bushy eyebrow. Her soliloquies, which are taken from Kahlo's own florid writings, are the framework, albeit an ornate one, for this gallery of woe: milky breasts, torn wombs, broken hearts and still-born embryos.

After her accident, Kahlo could no longer bear children, a loss that fills her more tormented canvases. She had to be satisfied mothering her more famous husband, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, whose philandering extended to Kahlo's own sister. "He was my child born every second," she said of the older man whose reputation overshadowed her own until she recently became a feminist cause celebre.

Ken Mandel, formerly a maker of television commercials and music videos, is more of a curator than a filmmaker in this instance, a curator with a good sense of balance, texture and design. "A Ribbon Around a Bomb" gives a sense of its subject's passion, but at 60 minutes, it's not a portrait, only a sketch. For that, perhaps, we should be grateful.

"Frida Kahlo: A Ribbon Around a Bomb" in English and Spanish with subtitles, is not rated, but its subject matter is adult in nature.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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