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GOYA’S GHOSTS (director/writer: Milos Forman; screenwriter: Jean-Claude Carrière; cinematographer: Javier Aguirresarobe; editor: Adam Boome; music: Varhan Bauer; cast: Javier Bardem (Brother Lorenzo), Stellan Skarsgård (Goya), Natalie Portman (Ines), Jose Luis Gomez (Tomas Bilbatua), Randy Quaid (King Carlos IV), Michael Lonsdale (Grand Inquisitor), Blanca Portillo (Queen Maria Luisa); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Saul Zaentz; Warner Brothers; 2006)
“A ridiculous biopic of the great Spanish artist.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An ambitious and original story but nevertheless a ridiculous biopic of the great Spanish artist for the rich and famous, Francisco Goya (Stellan Skarsgård), leaving him mostly as an observer of events. It’s directed as if the Czechoslovakia-born Milos Forman(“Man on the Moon”/”Amadeus”/”Taking Off”) had a brain drain. It is co-written by Forman and Jean-Claude Carrière.

The story is set during the last days of the Inquisition, during the reign of King Carlos IV (Randy Quaid), the rise of Napoleon and the onset of the French Revolution.

The soft-spoken Brother Lorenzo (Javier Bardem) is the conflicted soul who believes Christianity suffers because the Inquisition has recently grown lax and he urges a return to more tortures, while at the same time, at a 1792 conclave of Spanish clergy, that includes the Inquisitor General (Michael Lonsdale), voices approval of Goya’s “Caprichos” etchings as not heretical as questioned by the others.

The pic’s intensity rises as Ines (Natalie Portman), the model and muse for Goya, is imprisoned on questionable charges for ‘Judaising. Meanwhile her wealthy family rallies in her support and asks Brother Lorenzo for help after torturing him, who instead impregnates the glassy-eyed mentally tortured vic.

The pic’s ambition was to show how living in a totalitarian state corrupts everybody, even a principled man such as Brother Lorenzo. Problem is if Brother Lorenzo is supposed to deserve our sympathy over his right and wrong religious conflict, that part of the deal never convincingly came across. While Goya comes across as a shallow stylish crafty painter of ferocious scenes, who covets the support of royalty more than he cares about the vics of the Inquisition.

The gory pic left a bad impression, as it fails to do right by the artist or clearly report on the tumultuous times it depicts.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”