Stupid Girls

Thursday, January 05, 2012

La Llorona, Frida Kahlo, Salma Hayek, Chavela Vargas

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I am writing all of this originally. This is no cut-and-paste from some website. Frida Kahlo is one of the most important women of the Western hemisphere, and she nearly faded into obscurity, but for a few Mexicana and Chicana feminist activists who kept her memory alive in the latter part of the 20th century.

Salma Hayek  took up the film project. She is, herself, a formidable, Mexican woman of great intellect, humor and talent. This is her project. She even raised the funds for it. And, as I said, she is Executive Producer of (and had a few walk-on roles in) "Ugly Betty." Beautiful as Ms. Hayek is, she finds it difficult to find good roles. She is considered too short and too "heavy." Her film career is dazzling; the roles to which she agrees are profoundly powerful. And she is funny as hell! Most brilliant women are.

Fact is, La Llorona is Mother Mexico. She is an Aztec goddess,  Cihuacoatl or Coatlicue, fierce and powerful, mourning the death of her children at the hands of Spanish conquistadores. Interestingly, the singer I mention, Chevala Vargas, is a "fierce, skull-faced" woman now, perfect for the song, which is a signature piece of her career.

La Llorona has been turned into a common ghost and cautionary tale: don't be too proud or materialistic. In other words, be a humble, Mexican, peasant woman, obedient to church and men. And she is blamed for her children's death. In fact, she is a bogey man: she is used to warn children to behave, to stay inside after dark; they tell children she'll kidnap and drown them. It's a terrible perversion of a profound story.

the popular legend:

Ms. Kahlo kept her family name when she married Diego Rivera: a tremendous declaration of independence in Mexican culture. She could not bear live children, and nearly died in childbirth. So, the song is appropriate to her on many levels; she represents indigenous Mexico, feminism, preservation of culture in the midst of tremendous social revolution and world fascism.

She refused the "Western" fashion of the time of shaving legs and underarms. She refused to trim her "unibrow." She refused to capitulate to the arrogance of European & U.S. academics, intelligentsia, revolutionaries, radicals and the like that one proves one's legitimacy by looking as urbane as possible. In fact, she considered such a betrayal to her indigenous, national and cultural roots. The only exception to this was a brief period in her life when she cut her hair and dressed as a man, in Western clothing. This, too, was an act of protest.

Rivera is probably most famous (and it's not fair, as it's U.S.-centric: his brilliant mural art is all over Mexico and is rightly proclaimed as among the best of his contemporaries, anywhere) for a mural, commissioned by Rockefeller, who later demanded he remove portraits of Communist leaders in it. Rivera refused to change the painting and it was destroyed. It is METICULOUSLY recreated in this film.,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=dd2929341c21e46f&biw=1004&bih=465 It made me cry, to see it. He was a bastard, but a very important one to North American and particularly Mexican culture. And he must have been a great spirit, otherwise, Kahlo would never have loved him so fiercely. By the way: she was the ONLY woman in his life who seduced HIM, rather than the other way around.

Their lives together were tempestuous, passionate, discordant and harmonious. I'm afraid Frieda was too smart and too strong for him, actually. They finally built 2 houses, next to each other, connected by a catwalk on the upper stories. I can relate, given my past liaisons with partners I held very dear, but ultimately wanted to kill.

This video shows scenes from the film, so you have a sampler of how beautifully filmed it is included are her accident, a magnificent tango with her lover, Chavela Vargas, and the piece contains a bit of Chavela Vargas' scene in the film, singing the song. Ms. Vargas insisted she be allowed to sing "La Llarona" in the film for Frida, and because it is one of her signature songs. The scene where Frida is being carried in her 4 poster bed is her only gallery showing in Mexico, during her lifetime. She was dying and in a great deal of pain, but insisted she be brought to see her work on display.

I truly love Frida Kahlo and am very grateful someone with as much integrity as Salma Hayek chose to create this movie. It is meticulous and respectful.