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232 of 237 people found the following review helpful
There is no other film on the subject of art that is better than this one in my opinion. Irving Stone's best-seller was a great read, but in this case the film is better than the book. It centers on the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the contentious but invigorating relationship between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II; one drove the other "to complete his work", and even their verbal battles were productive. It is about the courage of putting one's vision into reality, the hard work, and the faith in one's self and in God.
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.
This is a film that moves me to tears with its beauty, and brightens my mind with its words. If you are interested in the artistic process, don't miss this magnificent film.
The film includes a Prologue, a mini-documentary of modern-day Rome and Florence, which traces Michelangelo's life, from his birth in Tuscany in 1475, showing his many wondrous works, including an early sculpture he did at the age of 15, through his death in 1564. Total running time is 139 minutes.
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113 of 122 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 7, 2005
I'll leave the artistic merits of this movie for others to argue over. Suffice it to say that it moves at a leisurely pace, and that the two main actors (Heston and Harrison) take turns mugging, gnashing their teeth and chewing the gorgeous scenery. However, since Amazon's product listing doesn't list the technical specs, here they are:

This DVD release of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY was made from the original 65mm Todd-AO negative, digitally restored. Aspect ratio is correct at 2.20:1, anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. The colors are deeply saturated, and the picture looks quite sharp, with little grain on my high-end Sony HDTV CRT.

The available soundtracks (all Dolby Digital) are 1.0 mono English, 2.0 stereo English, 1.0 mono French and 1.0 mono Spanish. (Contrary to what another reviewer here says, there is NO 5.1 surround soundtrack -- a sorry deficiency for a film originally released in 6-track.) IMPORTANT: On my copy of the disc, the DEFAULT soundtrack is the 1.0 mono English. There is no separate menu for selecting the audio you want, so you must press the AUDIO button on your DVD remote ONCE to get the 2.0 stereo English soundtrack. You'd think Fox would want people to hear the stereo track by default!

The good news is that the 2.0 stereo track is very clean, with the original 5-channel screen spread and directional dialogue faithfully preserved. It's not as full and crisp as a modern soundtrack, but remember that this was recorded forty years ago. If you listen with headphones, it's easy to hear how much of the dialog was re-recorded on a dubbing stage. In a few intimate scenes, though, the whirring of the camera is faintly audible.

Alex North's score has some nifty stereo effects, even if the title theme is disturbingly reminiscent of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra.

The disc includes the complete roadshow presentation: modern-day introduction (with beautiful aerial photography and closeups of Michelangelo masterpieces), intermission music, entr'acte music and exit music. There is also a demonstration of the 65mm restoration process, and some trailers of other Fox epics from the 50s and 60s, including THE ROBE and THE BIBLE. (None of these extras are mentioned anywhere on the packaging.)

If you're hoping to savor the grandeur of the 60s widescreen epics, this disc will not disappoint.
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Though I am useless at sculpting and almost so at painting, I have sort of adopted Michaelangelo as my creative mentor. This movie cemented that thought.
Michaelangelo is a master sculptor from Florence, carving the tomb for the warrior-pope Julius (no, he isn't dead yet even though they're carving his tomb). But Julias drags him from his commission for another one-paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel with "appropriate designs." Michaelangelo, who has only dabbled in fresco painting, is both enraged and inspired. He destroys the paintings and runs away from Rome, but returns when a vision shows him how the ceiling should be. Both men, creator and destroyer, artist and pope, are changed forever by the "work of love" that is the Sistine Chapel.
Charlton Heston was in fine form in this movie-he makes you feel everything that Michaelangelo feels. I sometimes think that the real men rather than the monuments (like Moses) that he plays are more his style. He does it realistically, wearing ratty clothing and often covered with paint dribbles. Michaelangelo does not stay the same-at the end of the movie, he is a humbler and wiser man than before.
And don't diss Rex Harrison-once I got over the "Doctor Doolittle as pope" thing, I found him very enjoyable. He manages to overcome some lines that would make me giggle in his place, including, "Is it proper for your pontiff to conduct Mass in a barn?" He makes you hate Julius initially, but as the movie progresses you grow to love him as much as Michaelangelo.
There are some truly excellent secondary characters, like Tessina the noblewoman who sort-of-secretly loves Michaelangelo, but understands that his paintings come first. Her brother, a Medici cardinal, seems a bit stilted, though. Tomas Milian plays another famous Renaissance artist, Raphael, who shows up with only a few lines of dialogue, but changes the course of the movie. Oh, and watch out for ice-cold architect Bramante.
Combine it with the glorious shots of the Sistine chapel's ceiling and Heston painting mockups, and you have a movie that deserves to be a classic.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2000
The Ten Commandments, The Buccaneer, Ben-Hur, El Cid, Planet of the Apes, all great Charlton Heston movies to be sure. But this movie, Mr. Heston's performance as the passionate and complex Michelangelo Buonarroti, is without parallel in any of the previous or since roles he has played. His portrayal as the great artist is imtimate and shows a tender side. Futhermore, Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II is also extaordinary. The two men create a fine chemistry of the rebellious artist and the stern yet feeling pontiff who commissions Buonarroti to the great task of the Sistine. This performance peaks when the two men are standing beneath the great and not-yet-finished fresco late one night and reflect over the images of God and Adam-classic acting for certain. Please, buy it, rent it, just as long as you watch it. If you love art, I'm sure you will love this.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2001
A Movie dealing entirely with the struggle of two men to create a great piece of artwork amidst the conquests of a warrior pope in the Renaissance. The Agony and the Ecstasy relates the story of an unwilling Michelangelo, portrayed by Charlton Heston, forced to paint the walls of an ill-designed chapel, and who, through great thought, decides that if he must paint, then he will paint flawlessly. Rather than painting the portraits of the Apostles on the walls Michelangelo fills the entire dome of the chapel with beautiful, heart-filled murals depicting certain scenes from the bible. Also representing the attachment of Pope Julius II, Rex Harrison, to the project, Pope Julius is seen ignoring the field of battle to discuss the all-important artistry involved with such a massive project. Finally, the movie portrays the view of the Pope as being most powerful and commanding, able to have his every whim accomplished without delay.

Michelangelo may be seen as the perfectionist artist drawn into a long and grueling task against his will, but who decides that if he must put his name to something that it will be done right. "I was born to sculpt, not paint." He is repeatedly throughout the process asked "When will you have done," to which he always responds "When I am finished". Pope Julius II on the other hand is a despot who allows his warmer side to show only through his appreciation of art. Always greedy, and always in search of saving a ducat, Julius refuses to pay decent wages, but instead uses his title to force Michelangelo to do his bidding. It takes everything Michelangelo has just to convince the Pope to let him paint the chapel as he sees fit. "I will paint men as God made them: in the glory of their nakedness!" The Pope is seen in the movie to be more concerned with Michelangelo's submission than with the work of the Sistine Chapel. He always has to be in charge, even in private; for fear that any compassion would come across as weakness.

I enjoyed this movie and consider it one of Charlton Heston's better works, although he did over-act a little as such is his trademark. I found the prologue, although not necessary to the plot, a nice addition to the video in order to get a wider perspective of Michelangelo's plight in being ordered to paint. The image of the Pope and servant on the scaffolding discussing the work by candlelight is memorable and helped to make the Pope seem just a little more human. Overall, I like this movie, but I was left with the question of--Why, if the Pope is engaged with such bitter conflicts and is on the brink of annihilation, does Julius II make the painting of one of his chapels a top priority?
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2000
Very few movies have I seen where the passion of the artist is so talently displayed. The technical beauty and historical accuracy of this film is masterful. Charlton Heston as always gives a melodramatic performance, yet despite its two dimensional aspects, he gives life to Michealangelo. Its very ironic to see Heston, a man of conservative and right wing views portay the misunderstood artist so well. Many highlights and themes of the artist's life is portrayed such as his love of sculpture, and even hints of his possible homosexuality. Just as well is Harrison's portrayal as Julius II. The interplay between these 2 characters of passion and ego was very entertaining. Often the life of the artist who truly wants his/her creation to be true to the vision of the mind's eye is one filled with intense passion which often times can be painful. Many works of art such as the Sistine Chapel took years of intense painstaking labor to accomplish. It was a life I considered living, and sometimes still think about, and only this movie and perhaps Kirk Douglas's movie Lust for Life have portrayed this life of painful passion well. Michealangelo and the Sistine Chapel are subjects I have studied extensively as an artist and amateur art historian, and this movie has done an excellent job portraying both.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2006
I kept seeing this movie on the shelf at my local video store, but -- although it starred two great actors, Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston -- as many times as I picked it up, I kept putting it back, not quite sure what the quality of the story might be. When I finally rented it, I wished I had watched it earlier!

The Sistine Chapel set is fantastic, and the ceiling paintings are vibrant and look identical to the real ones. Impressive! I especially enjoyed the simple yet moving scene in which a discouraged Michelangelo -- who has run away from Rome and gone back to cutting marble in the mountains -- sees in the clouds what he must paint on the ceiling: God reaching out to Adam. Michelangelo stands in awe and quotes passages from Genesis.

The conflict between Pope Julius and Michelangelo is both humorous and poignant. They anger one another yet they push one another to do the impossible. When the puzzled pope wants to know why Michelangelo left, he replies, "You beat me!" When the artist and the pope first interact on screen, the source of conflict is a sonnet Michelangelo wrote about Julius, quickly and simply setting up the push-pull nature of their relationship. There's a bit of reverse psychology that they pull on one another, too, which the pope employs better than the straight-forward Michelangelo, but the artist turns the tables on Julius, and rouses the pope from his deathbed with understated, serious humor (if there can be such a thing).

It's historical fiction, so purists will have to take the FICTION into account when viewing this film. Don't sit down with a biography of Michelangelo or Pope Julius and search for facts. Just enjoy the story! However, the people and the main events of the story did exist, did know one another, did happen. I especially like the prologue to the film, an interesting and moving review of Michelangelo's architecture and sculpture.

The DVD is enhanced, with the picture quality improved over the VHS version that I originally watched, so I definitely recommend the DVD.

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 1999
A wonderful example of the time in which Michaelangelo lived. A good example of the creative process of a masterful painter. Educational on the fressco process when doing the Sistine chaple ceiling. A great documentary preceeds the actual story which is also informative. This is a real classic!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2006
Charlton Heston is very good as Michelangelo Buonarotti, the Florentine painter, sculptor, architect and poet, one of the greatest and most versatile artists of the Renaissance who exerted an extraordinary influence on Western art...

The story - based on the Irving Stone best-seller - tells of that period during Michelangelo's life when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel...

Rex Harrison portrays the sprightly Pope Julius II, the greatest art patron of the papal line and one of the most powerful rulers of his age, who led military efforts to prevent French domination of Italy and as a politician and patron of the arts, he shove for a synthesis of church and state, of spirit and culture, with a grandeur unequaled by succeeding popes... His name is closely linked with those of great artists such Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo... With his wealth of visionary ideas, he contributed to their creativity... Although he had little of the priest in him, he was concerned - toward the end - only with the church's grandeur... He wished for greatness for the papacy rather than for the pope, and for peace in Italy...

The film shows the extraordinary violent temper of the Pope, his lost of his self-control and his rude behavior towards the Florentine when he shouts: 'He will paint it or he will hang!'

But, in one scene, he explains to Michelangelo his reasons: 'If I had not become a conqueror, there would be no church, no pontiff, no hope for peace for mankind and, I might add, no patrons for sculpture, painting, and architecture.'

"The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a proof of faith and a battle of wills... The pope continually asks Michelangelo: 'When you will make an end of it?' and the answer of Buonarotti is invariably the same: 'When I'm finished!'

But despite these recurrent strains imposed on their relations by the two overly similar personalities, their relationship is so close that the Pope becomes, in fact, Michelangelo's intellectual collaborator... The paintings are in form and conception, a product of the artistic symbiosis of two towering figures of the 16th Century-Italy...

Two breathtaking moments of the motion picture are to be mention: The 'Inspiration' scene where the clouds were forming the focal points of Michelangelo's Frescos; and the great sequence of meditation between the Pope and Buonarotti in front of the creation panel...

The supporting cast include: Harry Andrews playing the Italian architect of the Renaissance Bramante; Tomas Milian as Raphael, the master of the Italian High Renaissance style; and Diane Cilento as Contessina Medici, the woman who drives Michelangelo to search his heart for important paths of activity...

The film - an ecstasy for those who love and appreciate great art and powerful work - is a huge spectacle, a rich dramatization, moving and fascinating...

The picture ends by another commission of the Pope to Michelangelo, another huge work, full of swirling figures and terrible images of despair, the powerful fresco: 'The Last Judgment', the ceiling behind the high altar... Michelangelo's continuous argument is heard: 'I still say painting is not my trade!' and, obviously, the Pope response: 'To work, my son!'

And what a huge work Michelangelo left... A breve documentary demonstrates before the beginning of the motion picture: The Pieta of St. Peter's; The Colossal David; and The Moses.

Pope John Paul II led a ceremony December ll, 1999 celebrating the completion of the two-decade restoration of the Sistine Chapel... Speaking haltingly, he said: 'This place dear to the world's faithful not only for the masterpieces it contains but also because of the role it plays in the life of the Church.'
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
If you go into THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY with the idea that you will learn anything factual about Michelangelo, Pope Julius II, the Sistine Chapel, and Renaissance Rome--much less art--you are in for a rude awakening. Historians were quick to point out that the film was even less historically accurate than the Irving Stone bestseller on which it was based. Film critics were also harsh: while they described the film as competent, by and large they felt that a movie so crammed with notable talents should have been quite a bit better than it actually was.

There is some truth to these accusations. As a whole, THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY is essentially a prettified and cleaned-up 1965 idea of the characters and story it offers. Even the alleys are well-swept and the servant drudges remarkably clean, and in terms of visuals and designs the film is nothing so much than THE SOUND OF MUSIC gone Italian. The dialogue is remarkably pretentious and the plot extremely repetitive. And certainly neither Charleton Heston nor Rex Harrison were anything like Michelangelo or Pope Julius II.

Even so, the film works unexpectedly well on its own merits. Heston and Harrison may be incredibly miscast, but they both play with considerable conviction, and their clashing styles lend surprising believability to their scenes together. While a more accurate portrait of the era would be more interesting, one can't complain about the entertainment value involved; there is always something to see on the screen. And although director Carol Reed and writer Philip Dunne play fast and loose with the facts, the story they offer is quite entertaining.

This is not a great masterpiece of cinema, but it is a lot of fun to watch--as long as you don't take it too seriously as either history or art. The bonus package is quite slight, but the restoration is very nice, and the film comes with the original and interesting documentary on Michelangelo's works that prefaced it when it was in theatrical release. While I would not place this on a short of list of films to own, it is a pleasant enough way to spend a rainy night, particularly if you are looking for a film the entire family can watch together.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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