Rarely do the artistic mix of exquisite technique and deep passion come together so forcefully, so beautifully, as in the work of Spanish director Carlos Saura. Time and again, but particularly in "Blood Wedding", "Carmen" and "Tango" (the latter nominated for an Oscar), he filters the essence of his subject (often dance, as metaphor and as itself) through sumptuous scene after sumptuous scene to create films which, even in their more static moments, still flow with life.
And so to "Goya in Bordeaux", Saura's long-cherished project which has fired him for years and is his tribute to Goya in terms of both the painter's life and how the film was shot. Goya, in the ebbing years of his life, is living in exile in Bordeaux, one of the celebrity Spanish liberals who couldn't stomach the corrupt regime of Ferdinand VII. The last of his lovers appears now and again at his bedside, but it is his daughter who stays, intently absorbing her father's verbal journey through the key events of his past, recounted in the manner of a confidential, deeply-felt lecture.
Whether Saura is capturing Goya's massive ambition to become court painter, his imagination which hovers close to insanity, and his painting of and making love to a special lady (a whimsical, spoiled duchess), he constructs each sequence like a painting which happens to be alive. Moreover, the lighting is as close to Goya as possible. For the fourth time, Saura has teamed up with master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who also created the look for "Last Tango in Paris", "Apocalypse Now" and "Reds". In "Goya in Bordeaux", as in his other work, Saura never sacrifices meaning for beauty and, furthermore, is well served by Francisco Rabal, who plays the painter as a man full of assertion and sensitivity, compassion and rage, all the while resembling an intensely-staring toad. Most other current films are dwarfed by Saura's latest great success.