Thursday, June 09, 2016


This biopic of the artist Francisco Goya (Anthony Franciosa) is set in 17th century Spain in the context of two social upheavals: the Spanish Inquisition and the rule of Napoleon. We first see Goya (called Paco by his friends) in the streets of Madrid with his friend José watching the procession of an Inquisition victim about to be burned. Watching from a more exalted place is Maria, the Duchess of Alba (Ava Gardner), disapproved of at court for her slumming activities. Both are disgusted by the spectacle, and later after the drunken José gets into a fight with Maria's bodyguard, Goya is slashed with a knife and Maria tends to him. When Goya gets a commission to paint a mural on the ceiling of the basilica, he paints common people instead of a traditional holy scene which causes some controversy, though it also cements Maria's admiration for him. They have an on-and-off affair, complicated by the machinations of Prime Minister Goday whom the common folk dislike because (if I followed the story correctly), he is seen as a collaborator with Napoleon. There is a brouhaha over a painting of Goya's, the Naked Maja of the title, because it is a graphic female nude—and not presented as a mythological figure but as a sensuous woman—and it is assumed to be a portrait of the Duchess of Alba. Marie is sent into exile, Goya is arrested by the Inquisition and, naturally, there is not a happy ending for the beleaguered pair. Apparently this film contains more fiction than the average Hollywood biography. It looks good, with sumptuous sets and lots of purple, though some of the dubbing—it was filmed in Italy with mostly Italian actors—is terrible. Individually, Franciosa and Gardner are fine, but they don't work up much heat together. Most critics trash this film but I couldn't really work up enough outrage to go that far. It's bland but generally watchable. [TCM]

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