Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Lushly photographed and grandly conceived, Carlos Saura's "Goya in Bordeaux" never comes alive. It is an homage to the great Spanish painter, but we must come to the film already fascinated by Francisco de Goya; if we do not, the film will not convince us. It is too much a study and an exercise, not enough a living thing.
The film opens with an extraordinary image: a cow's carcass, dragging itself to a scaffold and then hoisted up so that we can regard animal flesh and meditate that thus are we all. Then the details of muscle and fat begin to run like paint, until they reveal the ruined face of an old man. This is Goya on his deathbed.
The old man rises up, confused. Where is he? Who bought him here? He wanders from his bed, and a shift in the lighting reveals the walls of his room as a scrim. We can see him through the walls, and then find him wandering bewildered in the street, until he is found and taken home by his daughter Rosario. For the rest of the film he will relate his memories to Rosario, and we will see many of them in flashback, as well as his nightmares and fantasies.
The cinematographer is Vittorio Storaro, who has worked with Saura frequently. "Tango" (1999) is a recent collaboration, the story of a man trying to make a film in Argentina, caught in a labyrinth of love, politics and music. "Goya in Bordeaux" is as good looking but not as fruitful.