Archive for Goya’s Ghosts

Face: the final frontier.

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Painting, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2008 by dcairns

the face of another 

My partner Fiona would like to point out that Javier Bardem, much discussed for his role and hair-do in the Coens’ NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (“a haircut for all time” — Coen hairdresser Paul LeBlanc) has the biggest face in creation.

It covers his entire head! Front AND back.

One of the many interesting things about Milos Forman’s GOYA’S GHOSTS is the sight of Bardem’s colossal pan nestling under a tiny tiny skull cap.

I’ve always said that the truly epic film gains its sense of vastness by contrasting the very big with the very small:

An eyeball reflects a flame-spurting urban dystopia at the start of BLADE RUNNER.

Peter O’Toole blows out a match, and the sun rises across an illimitable desertscape in LAURENCE OF ARABIA.

A pen drifts in zero G as a space-ship docks with a mighty rotating space station in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

And now: Bardem’s king-sized kisser is crowned by a casquillo del cráneo the size of a mooncup.

People look smarter in hats

Bardem’s casting in GOYA’S GHOSTS is the climax, to date, of Milos Forman’s policy of casting actors with surprising accents in his period films. It begins (though I can’t speak for the Czech films) with AMADEUS, where the starting point was a notion of using Americans to play the more declassé characters, with Brits as snooty Viennese aristos. But this system was abandoned, more-or-less, as soon as red-blooded American Jeffrey Jones was awarded the role of Emperor. Meanwhile, Tom Hulce as Mozart would try to tone down his American accent and Forman would try to catch him at it.

(Scots actor Brian Pettifer (IF…) found Forman, “a bully” and notes that the Czechs hated him. Actor and biographer Simon Callow had a hard time disguising his overtly theatrical tendencies. “Stop ACTING!” Forman would bellow. Then: “NO! Now you are ACTING NOT ACTING!”)

In VALMONT, there’s an even mixture of Brits and Yanks among the French aristocracy, with Scottish-accented servants. Weirdly, the exact same rule applies in the other version of Laclos’ novel, DANGEROUS LIAISONS. And yet I’m not sure Scots would make the BEST servants… watching John Laurie’s erratic buttling in UNCLE SILAS seems to confirm this.

GOYA’S GHOSTS has the most extreme mishmash of accents, because we have a Swedish Goya, an American King Carlos, a French Spanish Inquisitor, and English Napoleon, and then, just to shock us: a Spanish actor playing a Spaniard. Bardem’s is truly the most distracting accent in the film. But it’s his contribution that pushes the whole thing to the point where we can GET IT, and relax and enjoy the pageant of inappropriate accents as an unimportant sideshow to the main event, which is a pretty good film, despite those reviews.

Oh, and I’ve just seen NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which I’ll attempt to say something about once it’s been digested.

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