Too much history lesson, not enough Goya in "Ghosts"

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"Goya's Ghosts" is a decidedly odd film coming from such a prestigious group of filmmakers, which includes writer-director Milos Forman, renowned screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere and producer Saul Zaentz.

Its central figure is the great Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco de Goya, in many ways the world's first modern artist. Yet the film displays only passing interest in his art. Its focus instead is on Spain during the horrific period of the Inquisition and Napoleon's conquest, a subject that has its modern-day parallels, but the film never chooses to draw them. Indeed, the story these talented filmmakers tell is a sad, even pathetic tale about tawdry events and cowardly individuals.

The film opened in Europe in November to poor results. Foreign box office stands at $5.9 million, with $2.2 million coming from Spain. "Ghosts" makes its domestic debut Friday in select markets before an expansion August 3. While lavishly produced with exquisite period details and battle scenes, the film seems destined to attract a mostly art house crowd.

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