UMG 2003
289 474 150-2
label website
Shepherded for years by silver screen star Salma Hayek before the ambitious project finally coalesced around director Julie Taymor, the feature movie Frida depicts the love story between Mexico's most famous painters, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Dubbed 'the monsters' by their closest friends, the well-publicized bigger-than-life temperaments and colossal appetites manifesting between Frida and Diego made for a most tumultuous affair and double marriage. Rife with a succession of multiple infidelities and the endless struggle between freedom and commitment, underlying the extrovert push-pull nature of their relationship was really a very single-ended affection and mutual respect. Add the severe physical complications which forced Frida to spend the majority of her life in her famous four-posted bed; that their house became a meeting ground for communist reactionaries like Trotsky who received official asylum on the strength of Rivera's request to the Mexican presidente alone; the colorful, sometimes macabre vitality of Mexican folklore, customs and music - and you've got all the ingredients for an intense story bursting at the seams with emotion, passion and intensity.

Elliot Goldenthal studied under Aaron Copland and John Corigliano at the Manhattan School of Music and collaborated with his wife Julie Taymor on the production of Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass. Alternating subsequently between soundtracks and commissioned work like 1996's Fire Paper Water oratorio, he's done the film music for Alien III, Interview with the Vampire and further Neil Jordan collaborations as well as Taymor's first feature film, the adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.

For Frida, he reached deep into the folkloric fabric of Mexico's saucy rancheros and tangos, sung by a stellar cast including lgendary Chavela Vargas [left], Lila Down and Caetano Veloso, tied together by haunting interludes charged with drama and vivaciousness. If you haven't seen the movie concerned that it'd be a depressing descent into artistic angst, this album will quickly correct your assumptions. Julie Taymor and the script writers -- including an uncredited Edward Norton -- focus on the astounding will to live as it was embodied by their heroine over and over despite the most profound of odds. What could have turned dark biopic has been transformed into a veritable pean to sensual life affirmation. Authentic groups like Los Cojolites and the trios Marimberos and Huasteco Caimanes de Tamuin bring sun shine and the smells of Mezcal and gardenias into your living room while singers Vargas and Downs introduce the torchy and charged elements represented by the li'l worm at the bottom of the Tequila bottle.

A complete work on its own that requires no familiarity with the subject matter or visual counterpart, the soundtrack to Frida is a masterpiece like Kahlo's colorful, direct and often shocking works painted in a semi-primitive, go-for-the-jugular style. Shy of travelling to Mexico yourself for a little Don Juan adventure along the Yaqui river, this album is the easiest authentic avenue to perform a headlong dive into this culture. Like Lhasa's La Llorona, it's deep music well recorded but adds a running subtext of melodic leit motifs and atmosphere that tell a complete homogenous story. Trust me, this is one you just must own, green chili spiciness, onion tears and all.