Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

An old man remembers. His life returns in flashback, moments distorted by the imaginaton. "Time erases everything." Not quite.

When the great Spanish painter, exiled to France, surrounded by his family, visited by friends, looks back over a long life, he sees the Duchess of Alba, his true love, writhing in death agonies after being poisoned. He sees himself in the queen's court, seeking patronage. He feels ashamed that he did not stand up for his liberal views in such corrupted company.

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He painted at night, with candles in his hat. "The colours are different at night," he says. "They are warmer." He learnt from Velasquez, Rembrant and nature. After an illness, he went deaf. He was still young, in his thirties. The deafness forced him deeper into the dungeon of his mind. He saw man as a beast devouring its children. He saw the cruelty of war.

Biopics come in two sizes, epic or imaginative. Carlos Saura chooses the latter. The result is highly theatrical, patchy and inventive. Goya's history hints at passions only glimpsed and political affiliations hardly attributed. He hated the queen and yet painted her many times.

"I fought bulls when I was young," he tells his daughter, with pride. You don't see it.

Saura is known for his incomparable films on dance. Music and movement motivate his creative spirit. This has a quieter, more melancholic feel to it. An old man sleepwalking in the avenues of Bordeaux does not hear castanets.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Goya in Bordeaux at the end of his life looks back to his younger years.
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Director: Carlos Saura

Writer: Carlos Saura

Starring: Francisco Rabal, Jose Coronado, Dafne Fernandez, Maribel Verdu, Eulalia Ramon

Year: 1999

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain/Italy


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