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Movie Review: Goya's Ghosts

Alternate Title: Etch, Sketch and Retch

Story: This mess of a film by Oscar wining director Milos Forman had lots of potential but turned out to be a convoluted mess. It should have been a treatise on war, the Church, politics, art and humanity but with all of that material it just lacked focus. The screenplay by Milos Forman & Jean-Claude Carriere blends the real character of Francesco Goya with two fictitious ones.

It is 1792 and the folks that brought the Inquisition to Spain have decided it needs to be resurrected to get the people back in line. The Church is on the lookout for Jews and heretics. A young woman is seen rejecting pork (think Jewess) at a meal. She is rushed before the all seeing eyes of the Inquisitors. There follows the requisite torture scene, false confession and lock up. She also happens to be one of Goyas' models. The minefield of politics, art, Church bribery and lustful Priests make for one heck of a first half of the film.

The film proceeds to crash and burn as it fast forwards 15 years to a changed political climate. Forman then throws in a lot of European history (think Napoleon, England, changing borders and marauding armies).

There were simply too many themes any one of which would have been a fine film. The continual shifting of ideas did not work.

Did I like anything? I liked the art and watching the process of making the art. Francesco Goya is a large and important historical figure in both the art and political world. His character in this portrayal is relegated to the background as a man who is more interested in getting paid for his work than with his politics. Boo hiss!

Acting: Javier Bardem as the Priest had moments of brilliance, as he always does. But even an actor of his caliber could not turn this film into gold. Natalie Portman as the young woman (who plays two roles) was too weak a figure to work for me. Stellan Skarsgård as Goya was laughable. He is Swedish, not Spanish or anything resembling the very Spanish Goya. Randy Quaid as the Spanish King looked like he was going to a Halloween party in his outfits and they made no effort to cover his accent. As a matter of fact, everyone had a different accent.

Predilection: I am crazy about Javier Bardem and like films about artists ( I thought this film would be about Goya - but it was not).

Critters: Horses, dogs, roosters, vultures and lots of game animals (dead ones).

Food: Pork was a big topic.

Soundtrack: Overblown

Visual Art: There were some wonderful scenes showing how an etching is made and the influence that Goya's political work had over the world. Lots of paintings by Goya and the Prado's Bosch.

Theater Audience: About 25 stunned viewers like me.

Weather: The weather was good during the Inquisition.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Torture sucks.

Drift Factor: I drifted a lot.

Predictability Level: I did not care what happened to anybody.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: Neither. Milos Forman has made some other terrific films including, Man on the Moon, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Valmont, Amadeus, Ragtime, Hair and the glorious One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Length: A very long two hours.

LOBO HOWLS: 3