Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goya's Ghosts

I just watched the movie on DVD. I've had it in my collection for a long time but didn't really have the desire to watch it until quite recently.

It's dated 2006, but I don't think it's seen general release here in the U.S.(?). It's a fictional account by Milos Forman of what happens to several people in the orbit of the painter Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (haha, my art history classes finally serve me in good stead), with Goya a witness and scribe to a tumultuous period in Spanish history (well, one of Spain's tumultuous periods).

It's a good way to spend a couple of hours and maybe learn a few very basic things about European history. It looks wonderful and it's a fun watch, but I can't shake the feeling it could have been so much more than it is. I'm not good enough a movie critic to articulate exactly why, but basically it's a piece of melodrama, made more impressive by being set against the 'epic sweep' of history; and Forman also threw in some criticism of the Catholic church (as personified by the officials of the Inquisition) for good measure.

It's all very beautifully shot and presented -- you'd swear some shots were arranged by El Greco, Zurbaran or Ribera, although, sadly the supposed paintings by Goya used in the movie didn't really look much like real Goya paintings -- but considering all the star power that went into the making of this film (with Natalie Portman in a pivotal role) it feels quite lightweight, even kind of paint-by-the-numbers. It was actually more fun and instructive to go on the Internet Movie Database and read the argument between some Spain-defender who called the movie a bunch of anti-Spain lies by 'Hollywood WASPs' (boy, is he deluded), and a Dutch person criticizing him in turn.

In my humble opinion the best piece of casting here (at least in the looks department) is Randy Quaid as King Charles IV -- he looks exactly like the portrait Goya painted of the King, like the 'corner butcher (or was it grocer?) who won the lottery' (sorry, I don't remember who it was said that).

So the verdict is: it's not a masterpiece, but worth watching when you're feeling like something gorgeous and not too heavy.

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