Francisco Goya (1746-1828), deaf and ill, lives the last years of his life in voluntary exile in Bordeaux, a Liberal protesting the oppressive rule of Ferdinand VII. He's living with his ... See full summary »
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Elena Sofia Ricci,
Biography of famed artist Salvador Dali, focusing mainly on his relationship with girlfriend Gala and the time they spent in New York City in 1940 and his early days in Spain collaborating with filmmaker Luis Bunuel.
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Fernando Fernán Gómez,
José María Prada
Francisco Goya (1746-1828), deaf and ill, lives the last years of his life in voluntary exile in Bordeaux, a Liberal protesting the oppressive rule of Ferdinand VII. He's living with his much younger wife Leocadia and their daughter Rosario. He continues to paint at night, and in flashbacks stirred by conversations with his daughter, by awful headaches, and by the befuddlement of age, he relives key times in his life, particularly his relationship with the Duchess of Alba, his discovery of how he wanted to paint (insight provided by Velázquez's work), and his lifelong celebration of the imagination. Throughout, his reveries become tableaux of his paintings. Written by
In some copies on the film, when Goya's daughter Rosario is showing him her drawing, sitting on an easel in the background we see "La lechera de Burdeos/The Milkmaid of Bordeaux", one of the artist's last paintings. The image we see is reversed - the milkmaid is facing to the right and in the original she faces to the left. This is so due to the fact that the negative of some DVDs and some release prints is inverted in a brief middle section of the film that includes this scene. Another scene is that in which he is commissioned to paint the frescoes of San Antonio de la Florida Chapel. See more »
The patterning motif of 'Goya in Bordeaux' is the spiral, which Goya claims is like life. So this is not the linear historical biography of the artist we have come to expect from Hollywood, moving inexorably from birth, through success and failure, to death. In its circular motion, its conflating time, history, imagination, art, fantasy and dream, the film 'Goya' most resembles is Ruiz's astonishing Proust adaptation, 'Time Regained'.
Here the story progresses through the labyrinth of an artist's mind, where the narrative proceeds from a chance memory or incident rather than chronological order. History is monumental, written in stone, immovable - 'Goya', on the other hand, emphasises, fluidity, instability and fragility - the status of any particular scene is always in doubt, such is the complex nature of Saura's narration. The film appears to begins with a dream - an old man wakes up in a foreign land; he does not know where he is, he walks down strange streets, bewildered by the foreign language and customs, having wandered down the obligatary white corridor, before catching a vision of an old, dead love. The next scene, where a lover and friend bemoan his tendency in his illness to peregrinate, suggests that it wasn't a dream.
This ambiguity continues throughout. After all, the narrative concerns a dying man, whose life flashes before him, memories flooding back of critical biographical moments in the artist's life - his work at Court; his affair with the Duchess of Alba; his exile in France for liberal sympathies - but these are never merely historical, but revealing of Goya's aesthetic as it developed, theoretically and in practice. The biographical emphasis seems justified in that this development is linked to increasing misanthropy, terror, fear of madness and senility. One of his fears is of being in unrestrained imagination, and some of his later, horrifyingly dark works are a far cry from the dutiful Court pictures, even if these burst with a barely contained passion.
Goya's development - from patronage to exiled self-expression - marks a crucial development in Western art towards the Romantic, the solipsistic. Goya lived in times of tyranny, barbarity, slaughter, revolution but history is always filtered through his lurid sensibility, as if with Goya came the pessimistic idea that there is no such thing as objective reality.
Saura borrows many devices from Ruiz - the shifting mise-en-scene that flows through time and space, including the aging artist in a dark room watching a gloriously sunny aristocratic garden party decades earlier; or the device of the artists' various selves existing in the same frame. This sense of a personal history as opposed to a chronological one is emphasised in the flimsiness of the mise-en-scene, a literal creation of light and screens.
Comparing Saura to Ruiz, however, is like comparing Arnold Bennett to Virginia Woolf. Saura is simply too heavy-handed to achieve the temporal fleet-footedness necessary. His ideas are frequently literal or banal, his need to transpose everything as dance climaxes in a massacre ballet of obscene bathos. Whereas Ruiz sublimely caught the Proustian rush, Saura cannot hope to reach the visual disturbance and energy of Goya, and contents himself with defacing his work (blood spilling from paintings, etc.) Where Proust's end was a beginning (the decision to write the book he was actually finishing), Saura weighs himself down with portentousness; where Proust's ideas were grounded in a compelling plot of war and social comedy, Saura gets lost in ever-decreasing circles.
I'm sure there's a resonant comparison being made between Goya and Saura himself, especially in the speech of regret preceding the massacre - both men liberals serving totalitarian regimes. Again, as with 'Tango', the film's main interest is its exquisite score.
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