The Agony and the Ecstasy/L'extase et l'agonie (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
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Carol Reed (The Third Man) directed this 1965 portrait of the relationship between Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) and Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison), who commissioned the artist to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Based on a novel by Irving Stone, the script plods along, juggling the dynamics between the two men along with a somewhat perfunctory love story and distracting battle sequences. Reed seems more attuned to the nuances and great pains of the artistic process, as seen in sequences of Michelangelo working. But the overall focus of the film is unfortunately fuzzy. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Both Michelangelo and Julius are portrayed as stiff-necked, driven men who use reverse-psychology on each other to get what they want. We learn a great deal about Julius as a man, but less about Michelangelo. These are bravura performances by Heston and Harrison; they play men with monumental egos and ambitions but infuse them with human faults and foibles. A wonderful documentary over-view of Michelangelo's work that precedes the film would have been better at the end. Very enjoyable.
The script by Irving Stone and Philip Dunne is fabulous; the words flow like sweet wine and there is not a single unnecessary scene, or rarely one that is not meaningful. The direction by Carol Reed is meticulous, the cinematography by Leon Shamroy a marvel, and the score by Alex North adds much to the film. The costuming and sets are lavish for the papal quarters and the Medici household, and give one a sense of 16th century Rome, and the depictions of the fresco painting technique is interesting and educational.
Charlton Heston, gaunt and bearded, is brilliant as Michelangelo, as is Rex Harrison as the warrior pope. The interactions of these two actors is riveting, and the dialogue between them worth hearing repeatedly. Others of note in the cast include Diane Cilento as the Contessina de Medici, Harry Andrews as Bramante, and Tomas Milian as Raphael (the most famous papal portrait I know of is by Raphael, of Pope Julian II).
Though Stone's book and script take much artistic license, there is also a good deal of accuracy. This period of 16th century Italy was one of the most fascinating in all world history, and Pope Julius II was not only one of its greatest art patrons, but also an extraordinary man.Read more ›
The battle of wills that ensues is heavy on melodrama but rather flat on inspiration. As Michelangelo, Heston is solid, stoic and virtuous - a sort of Moses with a paint brush. What he ultimately lacks is any real conviction as one of the artsy set. Also, knowning as we do today that Michelangelo was not interested in women romantically, per say, Heston's faux romance with Contessina de Medici (Diane Cilento) is grossly misleading from a historical perpsective. What is compelling about this sometimes stagy, rather long-winded film is the way in which Heston and Harrison's unique acting styles spar off of one another. Director, Carol Reed, whose greatest contribution to cinema will forever be "The Third Man", on this occasion, fills the vast expanse of Panavision with lush photographic set pieces that strangely are cold and disengaging.Read more ›
Also, one should see this film in the "Letterbox" format to get the true scope of what director Reed was trying to present. "Full Frame" or "pan and scan" versions add electronic edits where none existed in the original and can chop up a film unnecessarily.
True, this feature reads like a "Reader's Digest" version of the life of Michaelangelo; a sort of "highlights" of the man's life. It does heavily concentrate on the on-again, off-again relationship with Pope Julius II, and sllows Harrison do drop in his deliciously dead-pan one-liners.
Should a new version of Michaelangelo's life be filmed (perhaps as a miniseries)? Most definately. Should an actor who more resembled the artist be cast? Yes. But, remember that AGONY was filmed in the 1960s and star power was the order of the day. Heston was hot; so was Harrison (My Fair Lady). Mr. Heston, however, has left, in print, his impressions (not all of them flattering) of both Harrison and Mr. Reed in his DIARIES. Sometimes, they make more interesting entertainment than the movie, itself.
Most recent customer reviews
A brilliant movie classic that any decent person can appreciate. I highly recommend it for families.Published 7 months ago by Darryl Mason
One of those mammoth movies produced in the period when Giant Actors roamed the Earth. One cannot rekindle that spirit and that creativity in our modern times. Read morePublished 21 months ago by michel laverdiere
Excellent film qui retrace l'histoire de Michelange, ses créations monumentales, le David et les peintures
de la Chapelle Sixtine de Rome qui sont absolument... Read more
My wife and I spent 3 months in Italy a few years ago and plan on spending 3 months in Florence this winter so we really enjoyed the movie having read the book(which is much better... Read morePublished on June 1 2013 by Amazon Customer
the painstaking recreation of the sistine chaple was a feat within itself and is wonderfully executed. Read morePublished on Nov. 10 2003