The Agony and the Ecstasy on DVD
Carol Reeds tale of the painting of the ceiling of the
Sistine Chapel is long and ponderous, but compelling enough to be worth a
And if you arent familiar with the works of Michelangelo,
you owe it to yourself to see this flick! The first ten minutes or so are
basically a short documentary on the sculptures of the great master, in the
context of the Sistine Chapel project that he didnt want to do because he
didnt want to paint.
But those sculptures in the opening section WOW!
Michelangelo was truly a genius and the things he was capable of doing with
blocks of marble were, well, simply marbleous.
Once we're blown away by the real artist's skill, we switch to the
story itself which, while plodding in places, is still an interesting
The great Charlton Heston plays Michelangelo, at the height of his
fame a man so loved and renowned that he can talk back to the Pope (Rex
Harrison) and not find himself burned at the stake. This Pope, Julius II, is
supposedly a better warrior than Pope and indeed he seems more like a Roman
Emperor than a religious leader in his conquests and, indeed, his attitudes.
But hes also a patron of the arts, and his pet project is to
have the ceiling of his favorite chapel painted by his favorite artist.
The problem is, as mentioned above, Michelangelo doesnt want
to paint, he wants to sculpt. But the gig is something that, for various
reasons, he cant resist or refuse, so up he goes on a scaffold to turn
the ceiling into yet another masterpiece.
Except that he doesnt. Those around him are amazed at what
he is creating, but Michelangelo isnt; he is uninspired and unhappy and
runs off to contemplate, leaving the work undone and the chapel a mess. And
leaving Pope Julius practically frothing at the mouth at the artists
But Michelangelo hasnt merely buggered off; hes
looking for inspiration and he finds it in a matte painting vision of
nature that looks like something out of a John Pitre poster. So he heads back
to Rome to finish the deed even if it kills him.
Despite an apparent cast of thousands and plenty of armies on the
movie, the movie is short on action and long on emotion, kind of an epic small
film. Heston is great as the artist; besides the actual footage of the real
artists work hes by far the best thing about the movie. Harrison
tends to chew the scenery a bit, but on the other hand this Pope is not
described as being a particularly pious or holy man as mentioned he's
more an emperor than Gods servant.
On the other hand, the movie looks terrific and the anamorphic
widescreen picture really does it justice when viewed on a big, 16x9 TV screen.
Its presented in its original 2.20:1 aspect ratio, which almost fills the
16x9 TV screen, and the colors are rich and the image is bright and sharp.
Audio is available in mono or Dolby Digital 4.0 surround and
though we didnt detect any surround the front three channels are used
very well, with dialogue mostly restricted to the center and the films
sweeping musical score making nice use of the front main stereo speakers.
The Agony and the Ecstasy, from 20th Century Fox Home
138 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.20:1, 16x9 TV compatible),
Dolby Digital 4.0
Starring Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, Harry Anderson,
Written by Philip Dunne, directed by Carol Reed.
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