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Hayek film takes Venice by storm

Venice, Aug. 29 (Reuters): Mexican mariachis, socialist revolutionaries and the troubled love affair of artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera took Venice by storm today as the world’s oldest film festival opened.

Julie Taymor’s Frida, starring sultry Mexican actress Salma Hayek, staged its world premier at the beach-side Palazzo del Cinema, opening the 11-day festival to enthusiastic applause that set it up as a strong contender for the coveted Golden Lion award.

Hayek tackles what she calls the role of her lifetime as the controversial painter whose marriage to world-renowned muralist Rivera and her affair with Leon Trotsky hypnotised the politically charged art world of the 1930s and ’40s.

“Frida and this film are not like another character and movie where you do it and you move on,” Hayek recently said. “She’s part of my life now.”

Posters of Kahlo, with her trademark unibrow and hand-stitched indigenous blouses, are dotted around Venice’s Lido, which is teeming with movie fans and tourists eager to get a glimpse of debut films and their stars.

Frida is one of 21 films in the main competition, which features Hollywood offerings such as Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition and festival favourites, including Takeshi Kitano’s Dolls.

The winner will be announced on September 8.

Moritz de Hadeln, the new director of the event after 22 years at the helm of the Berlin Film Festival, has vowed to bring glamour back to Venice, which has more recently been a showcase for art-house films.

There will be a taste of the glitz and glamour later today when the first wave of stars glide down the carpet for the official inauguration.

But earlier today, Kahlo’s controversial life story took centre stage, with mariachi music washing over the lagoon city of Venice.

The Miramax production, which also stars Alfred Molina as Rivera, Geoffrey Rush as Trotsky and Antonio Banderas as David Alfaro Siqueiros, starts with the tragic tram accident that scarred Kahlo for life but also inspired her artistic career.

It portrays the tumultuous lifelong relationship that she shared with Rivera in a world where Mexican artists swilled tequila straight from the bottle and painted odes to communism in giant murals that still stand today.

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