Goya's Ghosts

Release Date: July 20, 2007
Limited release

Movie of the Day for Sunday, May 27, 2007
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That's totally the picture of a madman.

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Position Staff In Brief
86/214 Max Braden Interesting to see Bardem at work before his nomination. The story meanders but Portman manages to not be herself. Excellent cinematography.

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Let's first clear up the big rumor surrounding this film: No, Natalie Portman does not appear completely nude in any scene, it's just a body double. However, if you're still intrigued by this potentially excellent (if not classic) film, then read on.

Milos Forman returns to familiar territory by directing a period piece centered around a slightly lunatic artist. Forman won the Best Director in 1984 for Amadeus (his second after 1972's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) then moved on to direct The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and Man on the Moon (1999). Now he once again takes up a story of love, intrigue, and revenge set against a rich, historical background.

Forman also co-wrote the script along with Jean-Claude Carriere. The two previously teamed as writers for the script of Valmont (1989), which Forman also directed. While Carriere has spent most of the past 20 years writing for television all over Europe, he was the main writer behind the critically acclaimed 1991 film, At Play in the Fields of the Lord.

Saul Zaentz has produced this film, and he is another previous collaborator with Forman and Carriere with excellent results. Zaentz and Forman teamed up for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, both of which won Oscars for Best Film and Best Director. The sheer amount of talent involved in this project is sure to create a lot of buzz during awards season, and we're betting that Goya's Ghosts is a strong contender for at least two or three Oscars.

The cast provides a very intriguing mix of actors. Stellan Skarsgard shifts gears from Bootstrap Bill Turner of Pirates of the Carribbean to play Francisco Goya. We're glad to see that typecasting Skarsgard as Father Merrin didn't stick, too. Javier Bardem portrays Goya's friend, Brother Lorenzo, though you might know him from his stellar performance as poet Reinaldo Arenas (2000) in in Before Night Falls and an intriguing bit part in Collateral (2004). Natalie Portman stars as Goya's muse, Ines, after growing her hair back from her stint in V for Vendetta. And Randy Quaid makes a dramatic switch between Oscar-worthy films. You'll remember that he had a small part in Brokeback Mountain, playing the part of homophobic herd managers Joe Aguirre (we'll overlook his appearances as "Tornado" Tommy Dixon in a couple of bad made-for-TV disaster movies). Now he's shifted to playing the King of Spain Carlos IV.

The film is set in Spain beginning in the early 1790s. Francisco Goya becomes embroiled in the resurgent Spanish Inquisition in order to save the life of his muse, Ines, after she is put on trial for heresy. Goya relies on his friend, Brother Lorenzo, to work behind the scenes to save Ines. But, as in all good dramas, things go horribly wrong. Ines is tortured and thrown in the dungeons to die, Lorenzo is banished from the Church of Spain, and Goya is left alone.

The three meet again some 20 years later. By this time, Goya is reaching the peak of his artistic prowess and creativity, but has become rather eccentric, bordering on slightly mad. Ines has been released from captivity, and France has retained the services of Lorenzo as one of Napoleon's chief prosecutors. The rest of the story revolves around Lorenzo's thirst for revenge against the Spanish authorities that had thrown him out of the country, Goya's desperate and near-hallucinatory attempts to re-connect with Ines, and Ines's own drive to regain what little life she has left after being imprisoned for two decades.

Not your typical summer fare, but Goya's Ghosts should be the perfect movie for those who appreciate dark movies of emotional anguish and human frailty. (Joel Corcoran/BOP)

Vital statistics for Goya's Ghosts
Main Cast Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard
Supporting Cast Randy Quaid
Director Milos Forman
Screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, Milos Forman
Distributor Samuel Goldwyn Co.
Rating R
Screen Count 49
Also see Tom Houseman review Goya's Ghost
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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