Art Obsession

By Lawrence Bailey

Francisco Goya’s final days are spent lost in delusion–torn between past love and loathing–in Carlos Saura’s latest film Goya in Bordeaux.

In his twilight, exiled to Bordeaux with other Spanish liberals, Goya reflects upon his life as he remembers it. His daughter Rosaria at his side, the ailing painter labours over his final lithograph while slipping in and out of reality, his mind tortured by his past. His memories are tainted by his old age and take place not in any historical reality but within the context of his art.

A film shot in the art-house tradition of theatrical formality, (flashbacks are the only time the action leaves the home) Goya in Bordeaux captures the simplicity of the artist’s lifestyle without betraying the complexity of the man. Forgetfulness and a sense of uselessness are seen ever so painfully in the eyes and subtlety of movement in Francisco Rabal’s touching portrayal of the aged painter.

While the story of an old man looking back is nothing new and the emotion at times borders on melodramatic, this film is captivatingly beautiful from start to finish. Using lighting to convey the richness of the understated emotions and allowing the flashbacks to unfold with Goya’s paintings as scenery, the lush visual imagery is riveting.

At its heart, this tale is one of love lost. It’s a portrait of a man haunted by the obsession he allowed to consume him in his past and torture him until his death. In his nightmares and his waking hallucinatory moments, he seeks and calls out for the Duchess of Alba, his self-described only true love. The consuming confusion that dominates this cinematic incarnate of Goya is best defined when he says "imagination without reason brings forth impossible monsters."

Beyond the obsessions and visions, a very humbling lesson in loyalty and familial love is taught by Eulalia Ramón’s moving performance as Goya’s wife Leocadia, as well as the powerful portrayal of his daughter Rosaria by Daphne Fernandez.

Goya in Bordeaux is a beautiful film, a perfect example of what the art-house guru Peter Greenway makes reference to when he substitutes "motion painting" for "motion picture."

Leave a comment