The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy

DVD - 2004
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When Pope Julius II commissions Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the artist initially refuses. Virtually forced to do the job by Julius, he later destroys his own work and flees Rome. Eventually resumed, the project becomes a battle of wills fueled by the artistic and temperamental differences that form the core of this movie.
Publisher: Beverly Hills, CA : Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, c2004.
Edition: Widescreen edition
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (138 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in.


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Of course the acting and script are dated. The movie skirts political controversy but for its time this is an excellent movie. It would be a fascinating project to re-write the story with 21st century subtly and nuance. A good movie to introduce adolescents to the world of classical art and autocratic political systems in European history.

Dec 13, 2014

A wonderfully old-fashioned costume epic depicting the titanic battle of egos waged between Michelangelo, “the sculptor who never wanted to be a painter”, and Julius II, the “warrior pope”, who commissioned the reluctant artist to adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Often filmed high atop his elaborate scaffolding surrounded by swirling saints, Michelangelo wrestles with issues of faith and artistic license while Julius, firmly rooted on the ground, struggles to keep the Church alive and solvent while engaged in a war against France; but the two men meet their greatest match, both spiritually and temperamentally, in each other. In the roles of Pontiff and Painter, Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston are perfectly paired (although Heston occasionally lapses into his “Moses” persona), while a soaring orchestral score and sumptuous widescreen cinematography keep things appropriately grand; candlelit scenes of those famous frescoes in the process of becoming are especially well done. An engaging piece of cinema exploring faith, duty, and the inherent suffering of the artist.

Feb 27, 2011

to recommend to Farah as its about Michael Angelo and the Sistine Chapel

Jan 21, 2011

Not director Carol Reed's finest hour. "I cannot give you mediocre," Michelangelo says to Pope Julius II when discussing the painting of the Sistine ceiling. That may have been the case for him in the 16th century but certainly not for movie viewers in the 20th. This superficial hokum boasts a story so sketchy that real acting only gets in the way of the posturing proclamations of the characters. The film is shot in the widescreen Todd-AO process but it appears that the director had no good idea of how to use the widescreen to enhance a story that just about screams for it. Fortunately, someone else (probably cinematographer Leon Shamroy) does have at least an idea and gets it across a few times, generally combined with mattes and other special effects. For example, toward the end of the film there is one nice twisting shot of the nearly finished Sistine ceiling that uses the wide screen to give the viewer a hint of the real experience. Unfortunately, this camera work is all but overpowered by relentless, overloud, "awe-inspiring" music. Elsewhere, the music is not quite as over-the-top but it does give pause to hear the popular 13th century saltarello in a 16th century context. (This is about like a rap singer doing "Oh! Susanna" in a remake of "2001: A Space Odyssey.") Meanwhile, the ridiculous tacked on "love story" is laughable in any century with the love-interest done up in such typical 1960s style that she is more than reminiscent of another interstellar conquest of Captain Kirk than a highborn woman of the Italian Renaissance.


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