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Charlton Heston stars as Renaissance artist Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564), who begrudgingly paints the Sistine Chapel for imperious Pope Julius II in this epic adaptation of Irvine Stone's novel directed by...
An excellent meditation on, well, the agony and ecstasy of creative expression. Both main characters feel divinely driven to see their work done, even at the expense of themselves. This film does a good job expressing what it feels like to be part of something larger than yourself, to struggle with ego and ultimately put it aside in pursuit of a greater good.
The Agony and the Ecstasy starts with a very formal 15-minute documentary on Michelangelo's sculpture, which stands as herald of what follows. It's not EXACTLY like watching paint dry, but the point of the film is really to show the artistic achievement that is the Sistine Chapel, especially considering its artist was a sculptor and not a painter. It's not even something he wanted to do, until he became obsessed with it. And it was ordered by a pope, who was really more of a warrior. The two unusual men clash, often entertainingly, through the performances of Rex Harrison as Giulio II and Charlton Heston as the artist, neither particularly pious when it comes right down to it despite their devotion to the Church. The ironies are palpable in concept, but the telling is a little too dry to really make them pop on screen. And so the film feels a little long, a short epic (with intermission) in need of a trim, and bizarrely straightwashed, when Michelangelo's sexuality might much more easily have been completely ignored.
A wonderful depiction of one of the most strained, yet most productive relationships history has seen.
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