Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Agony and The Ecstasy

Here indeed is a 20th Century Fox "prestige" production, from 1965, by Carol Reed, a sumptuous film of Irving Stone's bestseller. Somehow I had not seen it before.
Pope Julius is eager to leave behind works by which he will be remembered. To this end he cajoles Michelangelo into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When not on the battlefield uniting Italy, the Pope nags Michelangelo to speed up his painful work on the frescoes.

This is a fascinating, colourful and very-well made film that looks like an epic and is in fact an intelligent drama, with great roles for Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as the warrior pope, who seems an extension of Harrison's Caesar in CLEOPATRA. Others here from CLEO are cameraman Leon Shamroy and a music score by Alex North. Heston seems rather subdued at first - one thinks is this the man who was Moses, Judah Ben-Hur and El Cid? - but he grows into stature as we share the hardships of painting that ceiling and dealing with the wily pope. Harry Andrews and Adolfo Celi are just right in support, and Tomas Milian is the young rival painter, Raphael. 
Diane Cilento does not have much to do apart from looking decorative as a maybe romantic interest, though Michelangelo's homosexuality is not stressed either. 

One feels one has "done" the Sistine Chapel by the end, and there is a 20 minute prologue on Michelangelo's sculptures, including that Pieta and his Moses and of course David and the tomb for Pope Julius. Heston and Harrison are well-paired and its genuinely affecting by the end. Reed went on to direct OLIVER! next, and Heston next took on Olivier in KHARTOUM, which was better than expected when I saw it a while ago - review at Heston, Olivier labels. When I met Heston at the BFI in 1971, he towered over me. He was certainly a physical presence, 

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