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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Goya's Ghosts (2006)

Opening in 1792 Spain at the height of the Spanish Inquisition, a young girl (Natalie Portman) from a wealthy family is arrested by the Inquisition and tortured into confessing, though she's innocent, that she practices Jewish rituals. Her family asks the famous painter Goya (Stellan Skarsgard), for whom she modeled, to intercede in her behalf with a high ranking monk (Javier Bardem) for her freedom. What follows is a tragedy that takes 15 years to come to fruition. It's an ambitious, almost Dickensian, project with so much that's good, that it's a pity that director Milos Forman (AMADEUS) can't quite hide the seams of a contrived screenplay (which he co-scripted with Jean Claude Carriere). It's a great looking film, due in no small part to the production design by Patrizia Von Brandenstein and I don't think I've ever seen a film that showed the corruption and horrors of the Inquisition with such clarity as this. Some of the casting is bizarre (Randy Quaid as King Carlos IV of Spain!) and Portman is required to play both mother and daughter and she's simply too young physically to play the old woman, driven mad by years of torture and abuse. With Michael Lonsdale and Blanca Portillo (VOLVER).

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