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Goya in Bordeaux

Carlos Saura

Goya en Burdeos

Spanish director Carlos Saura has been instrumental in capturing the beauty of dance on film (most famously in Blood Wedding, Carmen, Flamenco and Tango), and although his latest project – a biopic of the Spanish painter – marks a departure of a sort, it is nevertheless a film which is filled with movement, rhythm and passion. Both visually imposing and narratively engaging, Goya in Bordeaux creates a strong impression of the artist’s life and work; assisted in no small part by superb lighting by director of photography Vittorio Storaro and an excellent performance by Francisco Rabal.

Bordeaux, 1828, and the 82-year-old Goya lives out his final days in exile in the house he shares with his lover Leocadia (Eulalia Ram-n). As he recounts the events of his life to their young daughter Rosarito (Dafne Fernandez), we learn, through flashbacks, of his days as court painter to King Charles IV, and his passionate affair with the intoxicating Cayetana (Maribel Verdœ), the Duchess of Alba, who still haunts his thoughts. He tells of his torment at going deaf when he was just 46, and his mental anguish over the destruction of his beloved Spain during years of political turmoil, which manifested itself in the darkness of his later paintings.

This is Saura’s dream project; his dedication to it evident in the detail of its exposition; at once colourful, opulent and dark, it captures the delights and demons of a genius. Skilfully and imaginatively constructed, it conveys Saura’s fascination with the work, personality and mystery of a man who lived through an era of tremendous socio-political change and whose powerful vision is considered by many to be the birth of modern painting. Unusual, intriguing and often simply mesmerising; there are rich rewards here for lovers of painting, history and vivid spectacle.

Spain/Italy, 1999.
English subtitles.
Colour.
Univision [2:1 anamorphic].
104 min.

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