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As an art historian I found this film fascinating. It seemed to be true to its subject - a complex, gifted and liberal artist - and also an authentic study of the contrasts of late C18th Spain. It also provided interesting and accurate source material for anyone studying the art of the period and I use my off-air video of it to bring the life of this wonderful and under-rated artist to my students. It was a warm tribute to a man who was full of vigour even in old age, but did not over-romanticise him, showing us the flaws in his character as well as his innate humanity. The film worked well as drama, using good cinematic technique to underpin the story of an exciting and unusual life in a pivotal period of Western history. It also used the fantastic aspects of Goya's imagination to underline the paradoxes of his life. This is a typical European art house movie, of a type rarely made in the US or Britain, but non-specialist film watchers should not feel alienated by that. It is intelligent, witty, elegant, superbly acted (Paco Rabal in one of his last films is terrific - he was Goya to the inch), beautifully crafted, intense and dramatic. What more could we want from a movie?
A brilliantly rich expression of the medium of painting through that of the cinema, a rare if not a unique achievement. Another reviewer refers to the "moving painting" of Peter Greenaway, and this film does indeed call to mind The Draughtsman's Contract. The dying painter relives in pictorial terms episodes of his life, artistic, political and personal, in between asking himself the questions "Where am I?" ("¿Donde estoy?"), lost in the streets of Bordeaux at the beginning of the film, and "Who am I now?" ("¿Quién soy ahora?"), as he lies on his death-bed, the two Spanish verbs distinguishing between the physical being and the existential one. The film is articulated to a large degree by Goya's three sources of inspiration, Velázquez (space), Rembrandt (light) and the imagination, but more by Goya's apocalyptic portrayals of the suffering of the Spanish in the Napoleonic Wars after the disillusionment of the French Enlightenment. Goya en Burdeos is to painting what Babettes Gæstebud and The Dead are to the celebratory feast.
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.
This movie portrays very well the Spanish history and like his last movies, Carlos Saura makes art out of the illumination and the colours. As usual, Paco Rabal is magnificent and Maribel Verdu is perfect for the role of la Duquesa de Alba, very sensual and a little evil.
A psychological portrait of Goya in his last days, the film illuminates
his art and complexities. An invocation of Goya's paintings and
drawings in their hallucinatory themes and colors, we are presented
with a stream of consciousness narrative in which the great and
influential Spanish master reminisces about his past glories and
failures, his joys and sorrows, his loves and loses, and the darkness
and light that forged his work.
This Carlos Saura's film is as visionary and evocative as Goya's art and should not be be missed by anyone who is interested in art, the creative process, and the conflicting forces in artists' lives.
This is a highly theatricalized vision of the notorious exiled painter.
Picture was originally directed by Carlos Saura and filmed with a
pervasive melancholy that does for slow drama . It is is an emotive
biography (1746-1828), involving 18-19th century famed Spanish painter
named Francisco De Goya Lucientes (Francisco Rabal and as young played
by Jose Coronado) and famous model (Maribel Verdu) for the famed
painting . It's a slow vision of Saragossan painter Francisco Goya
Lucientes' last days in Burdeos , ill and deaf , as he wanders through
the streets and remembers the citizens uprising against Napoleon troops
. It portrays his relationship with historic personages as Duchess of
Alba (Verdu) , Moratin (Joaquin Climent) , Bayeu and the scheming
favorite Godoy (Jose Maria Pou). As Goya observes and reminds events,
dances , parties , inquisition , French invasion that inspired his work
; as his reveries become tableaux of his paintings . As the highlights
of the movie result to be when are brought to life scenes of known
paintings as ¨Disasters of war¨, ¨Saturn devouring his sons¨,
¨portrayal of Carlos IV family¨,¨, ¨Los Caprichos¨ , ¨Black paintings¨
, and lithographs , among others . Two of Goya 's best known paintings
are The Nude Maja and The Clothed Maja . They depict the same woman in
the same pose, naked and clothed, respectively. Without a pretense to
allegorical or mythological meaning, the painting was "the first
totally profane life-size female nude in Western art" . The identity of
the Majas are uncertain. The most popularly cited models are the
Duchess of Alba , with whom Goya was sometimes thought to have had an
affair, and Pepita Tudó, mistress of Manuel Godoy; Godoy subsequently
owned them .
This is a costumer based on facts but predominates the slow-moving drama full of flashbacks with surrealist images , nightmarish scenes and colorful set-pieces . The picture relies heavily on relationship between Goya , his wife Leocadia played by Eulalia Ramon (real life spouse to Saura) , his daughter performed by Dafne Fernandez and Duchess of Alba acted by Maribel Verdu . Glamorously and sumptuously photographed by Vittorio Storaro , Bernardo Bertolucci's usual . Lavishly produced by Andres Vicente Gomez , the gowns are extravagantly magnificent ,luxury rooms and paintings pass by in front of your eyes and spectacular though theatrical production design . The sets are superb, at least as good as any other period piece films directed by Saura , furthermore great intervention by the group Furia Del Baus who carries out rousing choreography . Emotive and evocative musical score by Roque Baños. The motion picture is well directed by Carlos Saura , a good Spanish movies director. He began working in cinema in 1959 when he filmed ¨Los Golfos ¨(1962) also dealing with juvenile delinquency . Saura is a well recognized filmmaker both nationally and internationally, and in proof of it he won many prizes among which there are the following ones: Silver Bear in the Berlin Festival for ¨ La Caza or The Chase¨ (1966) his most successful film , and for Peppermint Frappé (1967), in 1967. Special Jury Awards in Cannes for La Prima Angélica (1974), in 1973, and for Cría Cuervos (1976), in 1975. Also, the film Mamá Cumple Cien Años (1979) got an Oscar nomination in 1979 as the best foreign film, and it also won the Special Jury Award at the San Sebastian Festival. In 1990, he won two Goya , The Spanish Oscar , as best adapted screenplay writer and best director. Saura became an expert on Iberian musical adaptations as ¨Carmen , Amor Brujo , Bodas De Sangre , Sevillanas ,Iberia , Salome, Fado, Flamenco ¨ and even recently Opera as ¨Io , Don Giovanni
Other films dealing with Goya's life are : ¨The Naked Maja¨ (1958) by Henry Koster with Anthony Franciosa and Ava Gardner ; ¨Goya¨ by Nino Quevedo also with Francisco Rabal ; ¨Los Desastres De Guerra¨ TV series by Jose Ramon Larraz with Enric Majo as Goya , ¨Volaverunt¨ (1999) by Bigas Lina with Penelope Cruz , Jordi Molla and Jorge Perugorria as Goya .
Goya in Bordeaux (1999)
A beautifully filmed and imaginative look at Spanish painter Goya's final years in France. There are fantastical flashbacks (really nicely created with translucent sets and changing lighting) and there are imagined versions of scenes that led to his paintings, highly colorful and gruesome. And effective.
If this movie isn't a raging masterpiece, it is mostly because there is no real plot. It's slow going, even though it is meant to be deliberate and patient. It meanders along as he lives out his final isolated years and we are shown (in spurts) his work and his past. The old Goya himself is played with believable gusto by Francisco Rabal, and the younger (with surprising continuity) by Jose Coronado. Neither are names familiar to American viewers, but both are convincing, which isn't always easy portraying a famous artist. If there is a deeper point here, it is the journey we all make toward death. And from what I read, Goya was afraid of death, and would be afraid of old age just as much as this movie implies.
If you like your artists heroic and inspired, you might find this version of Francisco Goya a little earthy and self-absorbed. But for me this was about right. He was an old man with little future, too much pain to make significant new work, and lots of memories. Of course, this being a movie (and being about life, too), there is an emphasis on his love affairs, or at least his interest in one particular rich woman, the Duchess of Alba. In truth, there isn't a clear history of Goya being involved with this woman, though there are several portraits of her (not including, most likely, the famous pair of reclining figures, one nude and one clothed, though this is implied if not stated in the movie).
All of this is neither here nor there for loving what is wonderful about the movie. Director Carlos Saura has created a magical world for this final great painter, one filled with the grotesqueness we associate with his work but also with terrific inventiveness, making the paintings come to life without simply re-staging them. The best last sections of the film are a tour-de-force, and indeed the whole movie is vivid and surprising. If we are sometimes slightly unenthused about the events going on (which are often nothing much), we are completely sucked in by the ever changing scenes and sets and hallucinatory worlds, part real and part Goya's dying mind.
In other words, the best of this movie is simply amazing. And any movie with such amazing portions is worth watching, at least in those parts.
Life is but a series of fortuitous events called destiny. Francisco Goya
lived a life fraught with fateful occurences which drove him to despair, and
ended his days in Bordeaux. His three-times interpreter, Francisco Rabal,
little knew as he made this film that he too would end his days in the same
city. Such is the coincidence of life and death.
Goya (1999), made as `Goya en Burdeos', hints at these and other casualities in a refined genteel way, notwithstanding the sometimes temperamental mood of the Aragonés painter. The genius of this film is how Storaro's magnificent photography and Saura's gifted and inspired directing, actually brought to life so many of the painter's creations: paintings only seen in Madrid art museums or in books. It was a delight to suddenly recognize in scenes in the film some of these beautiful works, as if magically brought to life by technological tricks, but with so much care.
Rabal's interpretation is superb: it could not have been otherwise, this being the third and last time the old Murcian actor had to take on the task of being Goya. It is also worth mentioning Dafné Fernández, who gave an intelligently picturesque performance; as was to be hoped for after seeing her wonderful part as Fuensanta in `Pajarico' (qv) made one year earlier.
It cannot be denied that Storaro's photography frequently becomes one of the main protagonists in the film's telling. No doubt this is in response to the peculiarities of Saura's directing, and thus, for me, makes a near-perfect coupling. It must also be added that the music employed in the film has been exquisitely selected, first with Roque Baños' own composing beautifully intertwining with pieces by Boccherini, Couperin, Tchaickovsky and Beethoven, as well as by an anonymous 17th Century Spanish composer sounding very much like Luys de Narváez.
A serious film for those who appreciate excursions into historical cultural backgrounds balanced by a stately unhurried production.
Peter Greenaway was the first to show us that film could be "moving
painting" (as opposed to moving photography). The life of Goya is
to the screen through his paintings and it is very beautifully done.Saura
very careful to stress the "artistic" side of Goya's personality and all
love affairs, political views are secondary to it. You can get a clear
picture of what kind of a painter this spanish was. A little too
maybe...Good job anyway. Pleasure for the eyes..
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Visually stunning, the film starts in the final moments of the artist's
life, where usually people tend to revise their entire existence. Seems
like a cliché, and it is; however, it doesn't affect its result and it
should please Goya's and Saura's fans.
The film dedicates itself completely to art fans, not just movie fans, and since it's Goya' life it must be that way. Great accomplishment by Saura, who mixes music, dance and visually transports us into Goya's psyche. Francisco Rabal delivers a trademark performance keeping testosterone and heartfelt in good level with old age.
Milos Forman disappointing Goya's Ghosts is far from comparison with this one.
Another gem that should not be missed by any art fans in general.
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