The slow pacing of this fanciful tale about the life and one reputed love of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya makes for an uneven drama. Anthony Franciosa is the artist, and Ava Gardner plays his paramour, the Duchess of Alba.
The slow pacing of this fanciful tale about the life and one reputed love of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya makes for an uneven drama. Anthony Franciosa is the artist, and Ava Gardner plays his paramour, the Duchess of Alba. While the Prime Minister of Spain schemes to betray his country to Napoleon’s forces and the Spanish Inquisition is winding to a close (overplayed here) Goya is trying to survive the pangs of love he feels for the aloof Duchess. In reality, the artist was seriously ill during this period — in the last decade of the 18th century — and actually went deaf. But reality is set aside for high romance, as the pair of star-crossed lovers take center stage over art and politics. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide
There’s an abundance of visual beauty in The Naked Maja, and that’s a very good thing, but it’s far from enough to compensate for the myriad flaws in this turtle-paced, dull “historical” romance. As might be expected from Hollywood, the history is mostly made-up. Yes, there was a famous artist named Francisco Goya, and yes, he may have had a lover in the Duchess of Alba. Beyond that, there’s precious little in this film that jibes with history the way it really was. Most people don’t watch a film for a history lesson, of course, but director Henry Koster and his team of writers haven’t provided much of another reason for viewing. As indicated, the sets are gorgeous, and they are wonderfully captured by Giuseppe Rotunno‘s exquisitely lush cinematography, which truly is a thing of beauty. The costumes are also stunning, and most important of all, so is the delectable Ava Gardner, who physically is right at home in these surroundings. Gardner doesn’t do poorly with her performance either, although she’s limited by the dreadful script and by Koster’s snoozy direction. She’s much better than Anthony Franciosa, a talented actor who seems at sea here; he needs strong material and without that, he founders. There’s also zero chemistry between the two stars, which is seriously damaging. All the chemistry in the world, however, wouldn’t have saved this dull, tedious script. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide