Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy (70 mm)

Tuska ja hurmio / Vånda och extas. US (c) 1965 International Classics, Inc. P+D: Carol Reed. SC: Philip Dunne - based on the novel by Irving Stone (1961). DP: Leon Shamroy - negative: Todd AO 65 mm - print: 70 mm - colour by De Luxe. M: Alex North. PD: John DeCuir. Cost: Vittorio Nino Novarese. S: Carlton W. Faulkner, Douglas O. Williams. ED: Samuel E. Beetley. Loc: Apuan Alps, Bracciano, Carrara, Perugia, Rome, Todi, Tuscany, Umbria. Cast: Charlton Heston (Michelangelo), Rex Harrison (Pope Julius II), Diane Cilento (Contessina de'Medici), Harry Andrews (Bramante), Alberto Lupo (Duke of Urbino), Adolfo Celi (Giovanni de' Medici), Venantino Venantini (Paris De Grassis), John Stacy (Sangallo), Fausto Tozzi (Foreman), Maxine Audley (Woman), Tomas Milian (Raphael). 138 min. A 70 mm print viewed at Tancred Kino (70mm-Festival), Filmens Hus, Oslo, 6 May 2010.

A fine print with a beautiful definition of colour and a richness of detail due to the Todd-AO.

The film is the story of how Michelangelo painted the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel. The main conflict is between Michelangelo and the Pope. While Michelangelo is struggling with the fresco, the Pope is struggling to defend the entire Catholic Church from imminent defeat.

The major turning point is Michelangelo's escape from Rome to the Alps at Carrara. During his escape to the top of a mountain he sees in the cloud formations a vision of the Creation that inspires him to start again with the fresco.

There is no love interest, except for Michelangelo's love of art. Diane Cilento plays his best friend who saves him from mortal illness.

This is a parallel novel and film to Irving Stone's Lust for Life. I love Minnelli's film adaptation with Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh. Carol Reed's film is not quite as strong. My favourite is the prologue, an introduction to Michelangelo, with an emphasis on the unfinished quality in his masterpieces, including the awesome final, unfinished Pietà.

In The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston played Moses following the Michelangelo inspiration, and now he portrays Michelangelo very well.

I remember the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel before the restoration, and the reconstruction in this film is closer to that experience than the restored version open to the public since 1994.

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