Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Randy Quaid, Blanca Portillo, Michael Lonsdale, José Luis Gómez, Mabel Rivera
Written by: Milos Forman, Jean-Claude Carrière
Directed by: Milos Forman
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images, some sexual content and nudity
Running Time: 114
Date: 11/08/2006
IMDB

Goya's Ghosts (2007)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sinners and Paints

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For all his accolades over the years -- including two Oscars for Best Director -- Goya's Ghosts is only Milos Forman's eleventh feature film since his Czech New Wave breakthrough Loves of a Blonde (1965). Among those eleven are a few shaky entries of dubious quality, such as his musical Hair (1979), and overall, very little personal style can be detected.

Set in 1792 during the Spanish Inquisition, Goya's Ghosts is another Forman movie that looks classy and weighty, but is really just a confused attempt that brings us no closer to discovering who Forman really is. Among its cast of costumed hundreds, it deals with three main characters: Inés (Natalie Portman) is the daughter of a wealthy merchant, Francisco Goya (Stellan Skarsgard) is the famous painter and Brother Lorenzo (Javier Bardem) is a monk of questionable morals. Their stories connect by the most tenuous of threads: Inés models for Goya, whose subversive works offend the members of the church. Brother Lorenzo orders a closer watch on the citizens of Spain, and so Inés is arrested because she refuses to eat pork in a tavern (she's accused of being Jewish). Goya has also been commissioned to paint a portrait of Brother Lorenzo, and so tries to get Inés out of prison. Meanwhile Brother Lorenzo has visited her and attempted to "ease her suffering" (if you know what I mean and I think you do). In the midst of all this, in a truly gripping scene, Inés' father (Jose Luis Gomez) brings into doubt the monks' methods of questioning by tormenting Brother Lorenzo at the dinner table, getting him to sign a confession saying he's really a monkey.

But just as things get interesting, the movie fades out and comes back "15 years later." None of the political ideas that have been raised are paid off, and the whole purpose of the leap in time is so that Portman can portray her own illegitimate daughter, Alicia. Goya is now deaf, and Lorenzo has become a freedom fighter for France. Inés is finally released, and she emerges covered in horrendous, splotchy makeup with her jaw jutted to one side (which is preferable to the truly laughable teeth given to Alicia). The characters wander around trying to figure out what happened to each other, with none of the tension that saturated the first half. Even the title, Goya's Ghosts, doesn't mean anything; Goya is nothing more than a bystander in this story. It appears as if Forman didn't even begin to understand what the movie was really about. He merely gives it a high polish, with lots of beautiful costumes, makeup and set designs, hoping that the Academy will remember him once more.